Philippines' COVID-19 epicenter may soon shift to other regions: analyst


Posted at Jun 07 2021 07:26 PM

MANILA - The epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines may soon shift to areas outside of Metro Manila as the Visayas and Mindanao record more new infections than the National Capital Region, a data analyst said Monday.

In the past week, the growth rate of new cases in the Visayas was at 44 percent, while Mindanao recorded a 22 percent increase, ABS-CBN Data Analytics head Edson Guido told ANC's Dateline Philippines.

"To give context, when cases peaked in the National Capital Region (NCR) in early April, its share to total was at over 50 percent, while Visayas was just at 5 percent and Mindanao was at 2 percent," he said.

"So the shift in epicenter now is very evident," he said.

Among the areas of concern in Mindanao are Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City, Bukidnon and South Cotabato, while cases in Visayas' Iloilo City and Bacolod City are also increasing, he said.

"They have now reached their new peak which was what we also saw in NCR before when cases surged," he said.

In April, the Philippines had been recording about 10,000 new COVID-19 cases a day after infections in Metro Manila surged in March, shortly after the first vaccines against the coronavirus arrived in the country.

The positivity rate across all regions "is not actually decreasing" as it has "plateaued at 13 percent," Guido noted, citing data from the Department of Health.

The World Health Organization's recommended positivity rate is only at 5 percent for at least 2 weeks, the analyst said.

"Our current level is still 2 to 3 times higher, which only means we need to test more especially in areas where the positivity areas are higher," he said.

Last week, several areas in the Visayas and Mindanao have been placed under community quarantine to curb the spread of the virus.

The availability of vaccines is one factor that affects the spread of virus in rural areas, Guido said.

The national government has allocated a bulk of available vaccines in the country to Metro Manila and 8 other provinces, which have high COVID-19 cases.

Temperature-sensitive jabs, like those from Pfizer and Gamaleya Institute, were also distributed to industrialized areas that have the capacity to store them in below-zero temperatures.

Guido said the national government should further expand its vaccination program, and encourage qualified individuals to avail of the jabs.

As of June 6, the Philippines has fully vaccinated at least 1.5 million people, while 4.4 million others have received their first dose.

The national government has begun jabbing workers from essential sector to boost the number of vaccinated people. It aims to inoculate at least 58 million people to attain herd immunity by the end of the year.