As cases decline in NCR, COVID-19 takes a detour to provinces
MANILA, Philippines—The spread of COVID-19 cases appears to have taken a detour from the National Capital Region (NCR) to areas outside the so-called NCR Plus bubble.
While average daily cases in NCR declined in the last few days, data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed that the numbers are currently piling up outside the region.
On Wednesday (May 26), the private tracking initiative Octa Research said the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila has slowed to 1,099 in the last seven days, at least 80 percent lower than the average during the peak of the surge in late March to April.
According to Dr. Guido David, of Octa, the numbers showed “significant improvements in the trend.”
COVID-19 cases, however, continued to rise outside NCR, especially in the regions of Calabarzon, which is nearest to Metro Manila, and Northern Mindanao and cities outside the capital.
Spike outside the capital
As of May 26, the DOH recorded 1,025 new cases of COVID-19 in Calabarzon, including the provinces of Cavite, Rizal and Laguna which are considered part of the NCR Plus bubble.
On that day alone, Calabarzon had 988 cases, which was higher than Metro Manila’s.
In Cavite, 346 new cases were reported; 250, Laguna; 175, Rizal; 173, Batangas; 62, Quezon province and 19, Lucena City.
Total COVID-19 cases in Calabarzon jumped to 212,161 (27,313 active), which was highest among regions outside NCR.
Central Luzon had 657 new cases. The region had the most cases—104,982—second to Calabarzon outside NCR.
The spread of cases also found its way to Northern Mindanao which reported high infection numbers—401 new cases. Bukidnon had the most new cases—135.
Last January, the DOH raised concern over the increasing number of COVID-19 cases outside Metro Manila, especially in Cebu City and two regions to the north of NCR—Cagayan Valley and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Another spike was seen in April when infections outside NCR Plus soared.
Quezon, the province closest to the bubble, hit 987 active cases on April 11. There was also a surge in two provinces—Batangas and La Union—and one region—Bicol.
Earlier this month, Octa tagged the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa and Bacolod as areas of concern outside NCR because of a continuing increase in COVID-19 cases that, according to local data, reached more than 400 percent in Bacolod alone.
The group also noticed a 78 percent spike in cases in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan province.
A high average daily attack rate (ADAR) from SARS Cov2, the highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19, was also seen in cities outside Metro Manila.
ADAR is the average number of new cases per day over a two-week period, divided by the population of an area. The DOH computes ADAR per a population of 100,000. The higher the ADAR, the higher the risk of infection.
The DOH said a community is considered at high risk of infection if its ADAR is more than 7.
Some areas outside NCR registered numbers at least twice higher than 7.
According to the DOH tracker, Puerto Princesa City had a 20.41 ADAR per 100,000 population.
The city is in the Mimaropa region, which had been under close monitoring by the DOH after recording an ADAR of 6.10 between May 1 and May 15.
Despite extensive contact tracing, Baguio City has recorded an ADAR of 17.31 with 468 active cases and 105 new ones. Ifugao province had an ADAR of 17.08.
Zamboanga City, which Octa tagged recently as an area of concern, had an ADAR of 16.49. Iloilo City had 14.05.
Other areas outside the NCR with an ADAR higher than 10 included Nueva Vizcaya with 12.28, Bacolod with 12.9, Bataan with 12.05, Angeles City and Butuan City both with 10.45 and Dinagat Islands with 10.28.
The DOH on Wednesday (May 26) recorded 5,310 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total active coronavirus cases in the country to 46,037.
The country’s total caseload is now 1,193,967.
Of the tally, 1,127,770 patients survived while 20,169 died.
Testing continues and the DOH said at least 36,630 individuals had been tested on May 24 of which 13.5 percent was positive for SARS Cov2.
Data from the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 showed that as of May 25, out of the 8,279,050 available vaccine doses in the country, a total of 4,495,375 had already been administered nationwide.
Of the the, 3,466,341 were first shots, while 1,029,061 were for second ones.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje on Wednesday announced that the government will aim for “population protection” against the worst impacts of COVID-19 while waiting for more vaccines intended to achieve herd immunity.
According to the health official, this is the reason for the government’s shift in its vaccination drive’s focus on priority sectors in the NCR Plus-8—Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Pampanga, Batangas, Cebu and Davao—to prevent severe cases and to revive the country’s economy.
“So, the term we use is really ‘population protection.’” said Cabotaje.
“We prevent hospitalization, we prevent and minimize deaths by prioritizing [areas]. And the bigger the population that is vaccinated, we have population protection, so there will be no more transmission,” she added during a Laging Handa briefing last Wednesday.
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