MANILA - Majority of areas in the Philippines have returned to its pre-Delta variant surge level, OCTA Research said Thursday.
Metro Manila and seven other urban areas are now classified as "low risk" for COVID-19, while Cebu City is now considered as "very low risk," said professor Guido David.
The seven other areas include Davao City, Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal.
"We have reversed the Delta surge already in NCR (National Capital Region). We were back to where we were before the surge in July. And the goods news is it's not just in the NCR," he told reporters.
"There are some areas in the country which still have significant number of cases but most of them are already on a downward trend. I could count maybe 5 municipalities with significant risk... I think we're in for a good December, a good holiday."
He added, "For the entire country we're actually back in— it's like we reversed back to March of this year."
The decline in cases could be attributed to wide vaccine coverage, the public's adherence to minimum public health standards, and the enforcement of lockdowns, David said.
"The downward trend happened middle of September, we were still in MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine), at least NCR. Nakatulong naman ang lockdown (lockdowns helped) in slowing down the surge that time and reducing the number of severe cases," he said.
"The key reasons are 'yung vaccinations... secondly, the lockdown helped, the alert system is working now, thirdly, the continued compliance of our kababayans, wearing face masks and doing minimum public health standards."
OCTA Research supports the implementation of the Alert Level System nationwide, David added. This system, first implemented in Metro Manila, changed the quarantine classifications and shifted the strategy from locking down entire cities and provinces to implementing surgical ones.
"I supported it even a few days ago for Nov. 1 pero (but) we understand the decision is to stay at Alert Level 3. It’s the decision of the IATF not us," he said.
"Even as we go to Alert Level 2, we should be more mindful of our public health standards, wearing of face masks, avoiding large gatherings at this time."
It is still important to vaccinate the vulnerable population, particularly the elderly and the immunocompromised to prevent another surge, David said.
"A small concern in other countries is the waning of vaccine efficacy after a period of 6 to 9 months. There is a theory kaya nagkaroon ng spikes (that spikes occurred) because of the waning of efficacy," he said.
"Once the vaccines start losing their effectiveness we might see more outbreaks. That’s why we support booster shots even before it happens."
The Philippines is eyeing to administer third doses and booster shots by mid-November, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez earlier said. It is also considering a 3-day nationwide vaccination program to inoculate 5 million individuals, Galvez added.
The country aims to immunize 50 million more Filipinos by yearend to reach its target of vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated 27.7 million individuals, while 32.7 million have received an initial dose as of Tuesday, according to government data.