MANILA — The OCTA Group on Monday said it is seeing a continued increase in COVID-19 cases in some parts of the National Capital Region (NCR), which may push the country's total to 665,000 by the end of the month.
This as the country finally started its rollout of COVID-19 vaccines using donations from China.
In a written report, professors from the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas who comprise the research group said that the NCR averaged 942 daily cases in the last 4 days.
“Before tumaas, nag-average tayo ng 400 cases per day sa Metro Manila. Ngayon, for the past 4 days, ang average natin 900. So, dumoble or more pa nga," Dr. Guido David, an OCTA Fellow, told ABS-CBN in a video call.
"Mabilis itong pagtaas ng cases,” he noted.
(Before the increase in cases, we were averaging 400 cases per day in Metro Manila. Now, for the past 4 days, our average doubled to 900. The increase is fast.)
The OCTA Group bases its analysis on the R naught or reproduction number of COVID-19. A reproduction number of more than 1 means that the infection is spreading to more people since one infected person can infect one or more people.
The group said the reproduction number for NCR, home to roughly a tenth of the country's a little over 100 million population, increased to 1.5.
Asked what could be the cause of the spike in cases, David said, “Meron kaming strong suspicion na ito (UK variant) yung nagda-drive ng transmission sa mga areas na 'yan.”
(We have a strong suspicion that the UK variant is driving the transmission in those areas.)
The UK variant, which has been detected in the Philippines, is said to be more transmissible. So far, 62 cases of such variant have been recorded in the country.
David said the rise in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila follows a pattern similar to that of Cebu City and Mountain Province, where the UK variant was detected.
The NCR cities that recorded “steep upward trends” are Pasay, Quezon, Manila, Makati, Malabon, Taguig, Paranaque and Navotas.
The OCTA Group said Valenzuela, Caloocan and Las Pinas had a smaller increase in new cases.
Among cities, Cebu City still has the most number of new cases per day at around 200. Other cities outside Metro Manila included in the Top 10 areas reporting the most number of new cases are Lapu-Lapu, Davao and Mandaue.
“Under the current trend, the number of new COVID-19 cases per day (for NCR) will increase from its current average daily value of 770 to 2,200 by the end of March 2021,” the OCTA Group said.
The country is expected to reach 665,000 total cases and 14,000 total deaths if the Philippines is unable to curb the spread of the disease.
As of Monday, the country's total infections stood at 578,381, including 12,322 deaths.
Over the weekend, the ABS-CBN Data Analytics pointed out the almost 8% positivity rate in the country, with NCR and Region 7 also showing a surge.
David said that with the continued increase in cases, Filipinos should strictly follow health protocols such as the wearing of masks and physical distancing.
“Itong vaccine rollout, hindi natin makikita ang effects nito sa number of cases,” he said. “Sa ibang countries, nakapag-vaccinate sila ng 20% of the population bago nakakita ng decrease of cases.”
(We won’t see the effects of the vaccine rollout in the number of cases for now… In other countries, they only saw a decrease in cases when they vaccinated 20% of their population.)
The government aims to vaccinate 50 to 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year, depending on the supply of vaccines, to achieve herd immunity against the virus.