OCTA: Spread of new variants possible factor in rising COVID-19 cases in NCR

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2021 02:18 PM

Residents observe quarantine rules as Barangay 178, Zone 19 in Pasay City is placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on Tuesday. The city government imposed extended localized community quarantine 14 days from February 22 in more than 30 barangays after the city recorded a 200-percent spike in new coronavirus infections. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— The OCTA Research Group said Saturday the spread of new COVID-19 variants may be a factor in the surge of cases in Metro Manila. 

In a public press briefing Saturday, OCTA research fellow Guido David said the rate of infection is faster than rates seen in Cebu and Mountain Province, which are among places that have seen cases of the United Kingdom (UK) variant.

"May isa pang posibility na 'yung UK variant or some other variants like sa South African and meron na ring other US variants… may possibility na may variant na nagsi-spread dito. Bakit? 'Yung rate of spread masyadong mabilis. Eh in fact mas mabilis pa ito, this is similar sa rate of infection na nakita natin sa Cebu and Mountain Province,” David said when asked if the higher rates may be attributed to the public’s complacency when it comes to observing health protocols. 

(There’s also a possibility that the UK variant, or some other variants like the one from South Africa and other emerging US variants, there's a possibility they are spreading. Why? The rate of spread is too fast. In fact, this is much faster than the rate of infections we see in Cebu and in Mountain Province.) 

Courtesy of PTV 

 

This may be confirmed through genome sequencing, which is used to determine whether a sample of the COVID-19 virus is confirmed to carry its mutation. 

"Pero ‘yung scientific evidence ay manggagaling sa genome sequencing so hindi pa natin masasabi right now pero ang sinasabi natin may possibility na may variant na nagse-spread kaya mabilis ang pagkalat niya,” David added. 

(Scientific evidence will come from genome sequencing, so we can't say right now [that it's because of a new variant] but there is a possibility that there is a variant spreading that's why transmission is very fast.)

On Friday, the Philippines recorded 2,651 more COVID-19 infections, the highest single-day tally in 4 months. 

The reproduction rate for Metro Manila is currently at 1.43 percent, with around 900 infections daily, according to OCTA Research. 

Following current trends, it’s possible for Metro Manila to have 2,500 daily cases by the end of March - which David describes as "concerning" unless cases are curbed. 

“Ito ‘yung levels na nakita natin noong August per day. What that would mean? potentially mao-overwhelm ang health care system so that’s why it’s importante na ma-curb natin agad,” he said. 

(These are the levels we saw last August per day. What that would mean? Potentially, our health care system may be overwhelmed that's why it's important to curb cases immediately.) 

David was referring to the spike of cases seen last August, which prompted frontliners to request a "time out" and the government placing the metropolis under modified enhanced community quarantine - the second strictest of 4 protocols enforced by the IATF.

While public complacency may be a possible factor, OCTA research has factored out recent events such as Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. 

Among Metro Manila cities experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases is Pasay City, which has put some 56 barangays on lockdown. 

While the localized lockdowns are effective at the moment, David said this only works “up to a point.” 

OCTA research is now looking at the uptick of cases in big cities such as Manila, Quezon City, and Makati. 

“So mino-monitor pa natin ito kung patuloy na itong tumataas (We are monitoring if these are increasing). You know it’s more spread out na sa Metro Manila and hopefully ma-curb na ito (we curb this),” David said. 

The government announced Saturday that Metro Manila and 9 other areas would remain under general community quarantine through March, after President Rodrigo Duterte shunned proposals to place the metropolis under the looser modified GCQ (MGCQ) until COVID-19 jabs arrive in the Philippines. 

David said the move was "good" particularly in Metro Manila, because of the increase in cases seen in recent weeks.

"In hindsight at least, it’s good na hindi pa tayo nag-MGCQ sa Metro Manila because of the surge in increase in Metro Manila and kung mag-MGCQ ay mas mahirap na i-curb ito. We could still implement localized lockdowns pero implementation would be hard and we think na 'yun nga 'yung being in GCQ will help us curb this increase better,” David said. 

(In hindsight at least it’s good that we have not been implementing MGCQ in Metro Manila because of the surge in increase. And if we place it under MGCQ, it will be harder to curb the number of cases. We could still implement localized lockdowns but it will be hard to implement that and we think that being in GCQ will help us curb this increase better.)