COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila on the rise, but experts say there is no cause for alarm yet


MANILA, Philippines – There has been a slight increase in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in Metro Manila over the past week, with 14 of 17 cities in the capital region showing increased rates of infection and positivity, health officials said.

Under Secretary of Health Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters during a press briefing on Monday December 27 that cases in the capital region had increased by around 49% over the past week, although it remains at “minimal risk” from COVID-19 for now.

“In the National Capital Region (NCR), daily cases last week showed an increase of 38 [cases] or 49% of cases from the previous week, now an average of 115 cases per day, ”Vergeire said.

Data collected on Sunday, December 26 also showed that of the eight areas reported by the Department of Health (DOH) for positive one-week and two-week growth rates, five were from metro Manila. They included the following:

  • City of San Juan
  • City of Las Pinas
  • Manila city
  • Makati city
  • City of Paranaque

The following provinces have also been reported: Apayao, Davao de Oro and Davao del Sur.

Additionally, of 31 other highly urbanized cities and independent constituent cities with positive growth rates of one week in cases but not yet two weeks, eight or 26% were in the national capital region.

These areas currently had less than 100 active cases, Vergeire said, but “we (DOH) are reporting these areas so these increases can be immediately brought under control.”

What to watch

A key measure used by the government to determine the spread of COVID-19 infections – the number of reproductions – has also doubled in metro Manila, but a panel of experts monitoring the pandemic says the figure is not alarming enough to warrant more stringent restrictions or blockages.

Guido David, analyst at Octa Research, said on Monday that the number of reproductions in metro Manila had doubled in a week. From 0.44 the week of December 20, it dropped to 0.85 this week, or the week after Christmas. In early December, the number of reproductions was only 0.33, the lowest reproduction rate observed in Metro Manila.

“This has practically doubled from last week,” David said during the Laging Handa virtual press briefing.

“We have to put in context that the number of reproductions is always less than one, so it’s not yet a big increase in cases. The trend is not a solid upward trend, ”he added.

The reproduction number is the number of people that a person infected with COVID-19 is likely to infect. A reproduction number of two means that one person is likely to infect two people. This is why the ideal reproduction number is less than one, because it means that an infected person is not likely to transmit the virus to another. Along with the Average Daily Attack Rate (ADAR) and Test Positivity Rate, reproduction number is one of the metrics that the government and experts regularly monitor to spot trends in transmissions in a given area.

Based on DOH data, ADAR in the NCR was 0.69 per 100,000. The indicators also showed that while the positivity rate in all regions remained below 5%, an increase in the rate positivity was observed in Metro Manila and Calabarzon.

Specifically, the data showed that the rate of positivity in the NCR fell from 0.70% from December 12 to 18 to 1.5% from December 19 to 25. In Calabarzon, the positivity rate fell from 0.6% to 0.9% over the same period.

ADAR is the number of new cases in a city or province over a two-week period divided by the population of the city or province. An ADAR of less than one means the area is at low risk for COVID-19. The positivity rate is the number of test samples out of the total that are found to be positive.

While these indicators point to an increase in the number of cases, David said we have yet to see the full picture of those December transmissions due to reduced testing over the holidays and Typhoon Odette (international name Rai ). Some test labs were closed over the Christmas holidays while many were unable to operate due to the storm’s impact on their staff or facilities.

Because of this, David said there was not enough data to justify a new wave of restrictions or lockdowns.

“There is no need to increase the restrictions at this time, because it could just be an increase in vacations, which means that after the holidays the number of cases could go down. Right now we can’t do premature interventions because the picture is not yet complete, ”said David.

But he said the increase in the number of reproductions is a “good reminder” to the public to respect protocols, such as constant mask wearing, social distancing and ensuring good ventilation when out or about. meetings with other people. David cited anecdotal evidence of “complacency” among Filipinos, where some would be positive after attending Christmas parties or meetings.

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Can’t say Omicron is a factor yet

The slight increase in the number of reproductions comes as the government announced the fourth case of the Omicron variant in the Philippines. Like the first three, the infected person had come from a trip abroad. This means that no local transmission of the variant has been detected in the country.

But, as he prepares for the variant’s eventual entry, Vergeire said the DOH seeks to minimize Omicron’s impact in the country by further scaling up vaccinations among the elderly and the high-risk population. , which have the highest probability. hospitalization and death.

Apart from that, Vergeire urged local governments to step up immediate case detection, isolation and contact tracing to help slow transmission.

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David also said that it was possible that the increase in the number of reproductions was only due to increased activity during the Christmas holidays.

“If we compare it to the 2020 holiday season, in December we also had a slight holiday hike, so we can’t say it’s due to Omicron as we also saw it last year.” , did he declare.

Octa Research observed the increase in cases last year before December. This year, the increase was seen during the holiday season itself.

There are currently more than 9,300 active cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines. Metro Manila has been classified as ‘minimal risk’ for COVID-19 since early December, leading to an easing of restrictions that allowed residents to go to theaters, hold limited social gatherings and leave their children enter malls for the first time in nearly two years. – Rappler.com


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