MANILA - The OCTA Research Group on Tuesday warned that a COVID-19 surge in Metro Manila has begun ahead of the holidays as it urged the public to observe minimum health standards.
The capital region's reproduction rate, or the number of people in a population on average infected by a virus carrier, has increased to 1.15 from 1.06 since last week and "continues to rise," the researchers said.
"It is in this light that we believe, based on our analysis of the data and of the past trends in the NCR (National Capital Region) that a surge in its early stages has already started in the region. This is a serious cause for concern," they said.
The surge may still be reversed or mitigated but the public and government must "act now and act as one collectively," the group said.
It urged the public to avoid crowded and enclosed areas and refrain from joining or organizing social gatherings this holiday season.
"While we must and we will celebrate Christmas, we should do so safely and responsibly, not just to ensure our own safety and well-being, but that of our families and our community," it said.
"There is evidence from Europe and North America that increased social mixing among households are driving the second wave of COVID-19 in these parts of the world."
The group urged the national and local governments to strictly monitor and enforce minimum health standards such as physical distancing, wearing of face mask and face shields, proper hygiene, and discouraging large gatherings to reverse the rise of infections in communities.
It advised officials of areas of concern and the national government to begin preparing its public health systems and personnel by increasing its healthcare capacity.
Aside from virus epicenter Metro Manila, other areas of concern are Rizal, Bulacan, Isabela, Leyte, Pangasinan, South Cotabato, and Negros Oriental.
"In areas of concern in the NCR and around the country identified in this report, we urge the local government units concerned to further intensify their efforts at testing, tracing, and isolation to reverse the increase in transmissions in their communities," the group said.
The enforcement of stricter border controls and more aggressive and effective localized lockdowns are "urgently needed to suppress further viral transmissions," the group added.
"Effective and stricter border controls must be in place to mitigate COVID-19 transmissions within and between provinces. Together with more effective screening and other controls in our ports and airports, this will be crucial to supporting the governments plans to expand domestic as well international travel in the country," it said.