OCTA warns daily COVID-19 cases in PH may reach 10,000 by end of March

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2021 12:03 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2021 12:26 PM

OCTA warns daily COVID-19 cases in PH may reach 10,000 by end of March 1
Shoppers traverse the streets in the Divisoria market area in Manila on December 13, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— The OCTA Research Group on Saturday said new daily cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines could reach up to 10,000 by the end of the month, half likely to be recorded in Metro Manila if the current daily trend continues.

“We’re likely to see 5,000 cases in NCR (National Capital Region) alone by end of the month, and at least mga 10,000 cases sa buong Pilipinas (in the entire Philippines) by end of the month,” according to OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David.

On Friday, the Philippines reported 7,103 new COVID-19 cases, the highest recorded daily tally in the country since the start of the pandemic last year. 

Authorities are pointing to lax compliance with quarantine regulations over vaccine optimism, and the spread of more transmissible COVID-19 variants as possible reasons for the surge. 

“In terms of numbers, itong record-breaking number natin hindi pa ito ang full, in fact una pa lang ito sa record-breaking, sad to say," he said.

(This record-breaking number is not the full [impact], this is just the first record-breaking figure, sad to say.)

"Ayaw nating mangyari 'yan, pero 'yan ang katotohanan kasi may momentum 'yung trend, may momentum 'yung pandemic right now and mahirap pigilan 'yung momentum especially at this level na were getting 7,000 cases, 3,800 in Metro Manila,” said David in an interview on Teleradyo. 

(We don't want that to happen but that's the truth, because there is momentum in the trend, the pandemic has a momentum right now and it's hard to stop that momentum especially at this level where we're getting 7,000 cases, 3,800 in Metro Manila.)

ABS-CBN Data Analytics head Edson Guido said 3,779 of the new cases recorded on Friday came from Metro Manila. David said the number is the 3rd highest total in the National Capital region since the beginning of the pandemic.

Friday’s new cases surpassed the previous high record of 6,958 cases announced by the health department in Aug. 10 last year.

David said the reproduction number, or number of new people who get infected from one person, is at 1.95 in Metro Manila and 1.68 in the country.

"...Hindi pa natin nakita masyado 'yung pagbaba o pag slowdown ng trend,” said David. 

(We haven't seen a decline or slowdown of the trend.)

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Metro Manila mayors earlier agreed to enforce unified curfew hours to stem the spread of the virus. David hopes to see the effects of the unified curfew on the numbers by next week.

“The reality is medyo kinukulangan na tayo sa oras kasi 'yung projection natin 10,000 cases by the end of the month mukhang possible talaga aabutan 'yan kung walang significant change sa trend na mangyayari,” he said.

(The reality is we are running out of time, our projection of 10,000 daily cases by the end of the month looks possible if there is no significant change in the trend.)

The group had suggested enforcing a "hard general community quarantine" meant to discourage social gatherings and indoor dining, implementing work-from-home arrangement for industries where possible, and use of quarantine passes for those who need to report for work physically, among others.

Metro Manila currently remains under GCQ, the second lowest quarantine level.

The idea is to limit people's mobility, enhance physical distancing in establishments by limiting allowed operating capacity and reducing high-risk activities, said David. People may also support the effort by practicing "personal ECQ" or enhanced community quarantine, the strictest lockdown level where people stay at home as much as possible.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 earlier announced a 2-week closure of some industries in areas under GCQ, including Metro Manila to prevent the spread of the virus.

David added that it may take weeks to see the results of these interventions on the numbers.

What he's hoping to see is a slowdown of the spread and a lower reproduction rate, as this would show "the interventions are working."

The surge in COVID-19 cases have caused some hospitals in Metro Manila to reach their bed capacity. 

“We have a looming public health crisis kasi based sa mga projections natin, 'yung hospitals baka mapuno sila in 2 weeks sa NCR and kung 4 weeks pa natin bago mapababa yung cases even with interventions magkakaroon tayo ng public health crisis, this will affect a lot of people and this will affect our frontliners,” he said.

(We have a looming public health crisis because based on our projections, our hospitals might be full in 2 weeks in NCR and if in 4 weeks we can't bring the cases down even with the interventions, we will have a public health crisis, this will affect a lot of people and this will affect our frontliners.)

The group urged the government to revisit policies to further strengthen its health and safety protocols.

“I know may circuit breaker na. Baka pwede pa nating dagdagan ito. Tingnan natin ulit sa Holy Week 'yung mga protocols natin for churches. Let’s revisit some of these,” he said.