OCTA: Metro now at moderate risk; new PH cases again under 9,000
MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila is now at moderate risk for COVID-19 infections, according to independent monitoring group OCTA Research, even as the nationwide tally of new cases reported daily continues to show a downtrend.
“The NCR (National Capital Region) and all [its] 17 constituent LGUs (local government units) were classified as moderate risk using our metrics,” OCTA Research fellow Guido David said in a tweet on Thursday.
David said the reproduction number of the virus had dropped further to 0.60 in Metro Manila, from 0.61 earlier this week and 0.74 the previous week.
The reproduction number, or “R,” refers to the number of people that one positive COVID-19 case can infect. A reproduction number below 1 indicates that the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
In its latest report, OCTA also said the average number of new cases in NCR from Oct. 7 to Oct. 13 was 1,347, down by 30 percent from the previous week when there was an average of 1,933 new cases daily in the capital region.
Earlier, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that based on projections the average daily cases in NCR can go down to 1,100 by November 15.
4th day under 9K
The OCTA and DOH projections followed the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to downgrade Metro Manila’s quarantine classification from alert level 4 to alert level 3 from Oct. 16 to Oct. 31. Also on Thursday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 7,835 new COVID-19 cases in the country, bringing the total number of cases to 2,698,232.
It was the fourth straight day that the daily case count was below 9,000.
The DOH said there were 84,850 active cases or currently sick individuals. Of this number, the majority, or 77.2 percent of cases are mild, 10.6 percent are asymptomatic, 1.5 percent are in critical condition, 3.6 percent are severe cases and 7.0 percent are moderate cases. The DOH also reported that another 5,317 patients have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of survivors to 2,573,161. However, another 154 have also died, pushing the death toll to 40,221.
Still, reopen with caution
While the number of new daily cases is going down, and restrictions are set to be relaxed in some areas, experts cautioned the government against opening up the economy without putting in place strict measures to prevent new surges in infection.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, board member of the Philippine College of Physicians and board member and co-convener of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, said healthcare experts remained worried that cases may shoot up if curbs are loosened without containment interventions.
“What is really important are the pandemic containment interventions that should be instituted early to prevent increase in cases or surges,” Limpin said in a phone interview.
Limpin said these interventions should include an increase in testing capacities, strict protocols for isolating suspected and confirmed cases, stringent physical distancing, and mobility restrictions involving international travel.
She said there should be “clear indicators” for escalating or deescalating alert levels. “It is important that when there is a signal of increasing cases, no matter how small, interventions should be put in place to prevent further increase,” Limpin added.
Earlier on Thursday, the government said quarantine restrictions would be lifted for incoming international travelers from “green countries,” or those considered low risk.
Starting October 14, facility-based quarantine will no longer be required for fully vaccinated inbound Filipino and foreign travelers from such countries, provided they can present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of leaving the country of origin.
But in a television interview, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., as well as Interior Secretary Eduardo Año were not consulted prior to that decision.
Reflecting the trend in Metro Manila, the Quezon City government said the pandemic situation in the capital region’s biggest city had also dropped to a “moderate risk level.”
Although it still reports the highest number of new cases compared with other local governments in the country, the city—the largest in terms of population—has seen a 36-percent decrease in new cases from the last surge recorded last month. Citing the OCTA report as well, the local government said the average new daily cases had dropped from 793 to 506. The figure reached a high of 1,117 cases from September 12-18, it recalled.
But Mayor Joy Belmonte stressed that ICU utilization in city hospitals was still above 70 percent, hence, city officials remained “far from relaxed.”
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