OCTA group notes COVID-19 decline but seeks stricter quarantine in areas with spike in cases

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 03:04 PM

MANILA— The OCTA Research Group, a team of professors analyzing COVID-19 data in the Philippines, said in its latest report that while the Philippines and the National Capital Region has seen a decreasing trend in new cases, the country might have to consider imposing stricter quarantine measures in some areas.

“Based on available data, the value of Rt (transmission rate) for the entire Philippines and in the NCR has been on a decelerating trend. But these positive trends are not irreversible and significant efforts have to be undertaken by all stakeholders to sustain,” wrote the group composed of professors from the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, and Providence College in the United States.

The group also suggested that “[t]he national government may consider reverting to a stricter quarantine classification or resort to localized lockdowns” for local government units under the following circumstances:

  • If there is an increase in new cases for two consecutive weeks and 
  • If the daily attack rate is greater than 7% per 1,000 (equivalent to 50 new cases per week per 100k population) 
  • If the LGU has limited hospital capacity or hospital occupancy is already in excess of the 70% which is the critical level set by government.

Based on these qualifications, they suggested a stricter quarantine classification for Bauan, Batangas; Calbayog, Western Samar; and General Trias, Cavite.

In its report, the OCTA group also identified the following areas as “hotspots” or those with the most number of new cases per day over the past two weeks:

1. NCR (902 additional cases)
2. Cavite (208)
3. Rizal (131)
4. Batangas (121)
5. Laguna (121)
6. Bulacan (98)
7. Negros Occidental (93)
8. Iloilo (81)

“Given the analysis of attack rates in the NCR and other cities and municipalities around the country, we urge the national government and the local government units (LGUs) concerned to further intensify their efforts at testing, tracing, and isolation to reverse the increase of transmissions at the community level,” the group said. 

It also suggested the scaling up of testing areas in Mindanao, especially in Butuan, General Santos, Cotabato City, Marawi and Cagayan de Oro, because of the high positivity rate or the ratio of people testing positive of COVID-19.

In its report, the OCTA Group noted that the reproduction number of transmission rate of the COVID-19 disease in the Philippines was at 0.88%, which is still less than 1%. This means that an infected person is only able to infect one other person or none at all unlike at the onset of the pandemic when it was around 2 or 3. 

Experts believe that if the reproduction number is less than 1, the disease won’t spread anymore. 

The group also showed that the positivity rate of NCR went down to 8% from 12% in the week of August 29 to September 4. This is still higher than the World Health Organization benchmark of 5 percent and below.

Among NCR cities, San Juan had the highest “attack rate” or the percentage of the population affected by the disease per day. A daily attack rate of 5% per 1,000 means that there are 5 new cases per 100,000 of the population, the group explained.

San Juan was followed by Pateros and Makati although all three are considered to have an improving or decreasing attack rate.

Table from the OCTA Research Group
Table from the OCTA Research Group

Other recommendations given by the OCTA group are the implementation of stricter border controls, scaling up health care system capacities, and strict monitoring and enforcement of minimum health standards.