OCTA on Saturday recommended a week-long extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the "NCR Plus" bubble as virus transmission continued to slow down in Metro Manila.
Based on its latest monitoring report, OCTA said the reproduction number (R) in the National Capital Region decreased to 1.23 this week (April 3 to April 9) from 1.88 the week before ECQ, which means the strictest lockdown is slowing the virus spread.
Last week's R naught was at 1.65, based on the research group's earlier presentation.
The R value measures the average number of people that one infected person passes the disease to. An R value above 1 can lead to exponential growth.
OCTA, however, pointed out that the lower testing, down by 19 percent from last week, could mean that "the findings may be subject to corrections once newer data come in."
If an ECQ extension is not possible, the researchers are suggesting a minimum of 2 weeks of a modified ECQ.
"The positivity rate in the NCR was 25 percent over the past week... the ECQ has been effective in reducing the growth rate and reproduction number in the NCR. There is hope that the NCR will be on a downward trend by next week," the report read.
"Extend the ECQ for another week to continue to slow down
the surge, decongest our hospitals and relieve the pressure on our healthcare workers," it added, pointing out that reopening the economy "prematurely would be a significant risk."
The government placed Metro Manila and 4 nearby provinces Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, and Cavite— collectively, the NCR Plus— under ECQ on March 29 due to record-high coronavirus infections, a bulk of which came from these areas.
The period is set to lapse on April 11, with government expected to announce quarantine levels later Saturday.
But the research unit said another week of ECQ would be needed to decrease further the growth of infections and decongest hospitals in the NCR Plus bubble, which are nearing the breaking point due to a stream of fresh admissions.
According to the report, Metro Manila cities Taguig, Makati, Muntinlupa, Malabon, San Juan have already reached 100 percent intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy.
The cities of Bacoor and Imus in Cavite, and Antipolo in Rizal have also reported full ICU utilization.
Quezon City (89%), Manila (88%), Las Pinas (82%) and Pasay (85%) are also nearing full ICU occupancy.
"Government should continue its efforts to expand testing tracing and isolation to accelerate the regions' exit from ECQ," the researchers noted.
The government is distributing modular tents to struggling hospitals and re-deploying health workers from regions where virus transmission rates are low.
For the past week the country has also been reporting record-high cases and deaths.
To date, the Philippines has confirmed 840,554 coronavirus infections, with 14,520 fatalities and 647,683 recoveries.
The OCTA Research Group estimates that the total number of cases in the country will reach 1 million by the end of April.