Metro Manila is experiencing a spike in the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases with 900 being reported on average daily and with almost all local government units in the country’s premier National Capital Region (NCR) recording increases, according to academe-based Octa Research.
This comes as the country logged 3,439 cases on Saturday, the highest number of new Covid-19 cases this year and the highest since Sept. 21, 2020, which also logged the same number of cases.
The new high caseload pushes the total number of cases in the country to 591,138, of which 43,323 were active cases.
One-hundred-sixty people recovered from the virus, for a total of 535,350 recoveries, while 42 others were added to the death toll for a total of 12,465.
In its March 5 report, Octa said the increase in cases in NCR was 50-percent higher than the previous reporting week of February 19 to 25, and 119-percent higher than from two weeks ago.
Positivity rate in the region has also risen to 7 percent over the past seven days, and is increasing by one percentage point every week, while the reproduction number, or R0, is at 1.47.
According to Octa fellow Dr. Guido David, Metro Manila last year already prepared for a possible surge through increased contact-tracing, testing and improving bed capacity, and that there is still time to control the case spike at present.
Because of this preparation, David said, there is no need yet for Metro Manila to declare an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) but conceded that “time is running out.”
“The breaking point will be higher… that means we still have time before we reach the breaking point… even if cases double in two weeks, it could take more than one month before we can reach the breaking point, we have time,” he told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire agreed with David, saying an ECQ or MECQ is only necessary if there is a need to enforce stricter restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
“Pag dumating po tayo sa punto na kailangan nating isara ang ating mga syudad dahil sa nangyayari, gagawin po ‘yan as an additional measure, pero… pwede ring hindi mangyari kung lahat tayo ay tutulong sa gobyerno (If we reach that point that we have to close our cities because of what we are experiencing, we will do it as an additional measure, but we will also not enforce it [lockdown] if everyone will help the government) by complying with minimum public health standards that we have,” Vergeire added during her regular Laging Handa public briefing segment.
Octa said the surge in cases in NCR may have been driven by “new and more contagious and lethal variants that could overwhelm the region if left unabated in the next few weeks,” but he added that this concern should be confirmed by genome sequencing.
“Even if it is not completely driven by [variants], mayroon part dito (there is a part that is) driven by a variant,” David said.
Manila, Quezon City, Pasay City and Makati City posted increases in their average daily new cases, with Pasay having 150 new cases per day, its highest average in its history and higher than what the city reported during the surge in August 2020.
Five barangay (villages) in Pasay City have also been considered as Covid-19 hot spots by the research group: Barangay 76, 59, 183, 70 and 36, with Barangay 76 having 128 new cases reported per day during the reporting week.
David acknowledged that there might be some cases that were reported in these barangay because residents were working there or were admitted in hospitals in the villages.
“Sometimes people go to work there, kung doon sila na-infect sa workplace, pwedeng doon sila na-report as doon sila infected, hindi kung saan sila nakatira (if they were infected in the workplace, it could be that they were reported to have been infected there, not where they live),” he said.
While the highly infectious B1351 or the so-called South African variant of the virus has been identified in Pasay City, Octa said, it is not known how widespread the variant is now in the NCR.
Vergeire said epidemiological investigation is still needed to determine if there is a local transmission of the variant in Pasay City that could have caused the surge in the number of cases.
Elsewhere in the country, Cebu City’s virus cases have dropped for the first time, indicating a reversal of a trend in the area, as well as in Davao City, while slight increases were reported in Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue City.
Baguio City was also experiencing an uptick in new cases and with a positivity rate of 22 percent, and David has hinted that there could be a case spike in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
Meanwhile, some hospitals have also reported increases and surges in the number of admissions, with a message that was circulated on messaging apps saying St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City has experienced a surge in cases, forcing it to open another ward and convert it into an intensive care unit.
But in a text message to The Times, the hospital denied that its wards were full as of Saturday morning.
But at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, its spokesman Dr. Jonas Del Rosario also told this paper in a text message that it had to pull out their medical students, citing an increasing number of admissions and frontline workers being infected with the virus that he said could have come from the variants.
“We don’t want to unnecessarily expose our medical clerks and interns to patients who might have Covid-19,” Del Rosario said.
Vergeire said the hospital situation in Metro Manila remained manageable, also pointing to the early preparation for a possible surge since November of last year.
“[We prepared our] hospital[s] na magkaroon ng adequate capacity. So, nakikita n’yo po na since November, ang ating hospital capacity hindi po tayo tumataas sa 50 percent… But of course, andyan din yung babala na tulungan natin ang sistema natin by (We prepared our hospitals to have adequate capacity. As you have seen since November, our capacity has not increased above 50 percent. But, of course, there is still the warning that we still need to help the system by) complying with the standards,” she added.
Vergeire said the One Hospital Command and the Oplan Kalinga, or the transfer of mild cases to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, have been activated, while the Department of Health will coordinate with its regional directors to discuss steps to prevent the surge.