DOH sees NCR cases dropping to under 2K

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    Says dip likely if Metro stays under Alert Level 4

    BY GERARD NAVAL and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday said the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases per day in Metro Manila is likely to drop to less than 2,000 by the end of the month if the region remains under Alert Level 4 until October 31.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a virtual press briefing, said the average daily cases in the region may drop to 1,731 from the current average of 3,897 if mobility restrictions remain strictly enforced.

    Vergeire said the decrease will be minimal at 3,605 only if the controls are eased and Alert Level 3 is imposed in the National Capital Region (NCR).

    “Looking at the projected cases by October 31, with the shorter detection to isolation time, daily cases may decrease to 1,731 cases if Alert Level 4 is continued,” Vergeire said, adding: “On the other hand, about 3,211 to 3,605 daily cases are expected if the National Capital Region is deescalated to Alert Level 3.”

    Metro Manila was first placed under Alert Level 4 from September 15 until 30. This was extended until October 15. The alert level is determined by the DOH based on risk classification and hospital utilization rate.

    The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) met Monday night to discuss the next alert level for the region.

    Vergeire said the DOH projection is built on the prevailing trend in Metro Manila, which has been “showing a slow downward trend with reported cases decreased by 36 percent versus the previous seven days.”

    She also noted how the two-week case growth in the region was at negative 46 percent for the period of September 27 to October 10.

    During the same period, she said the average daily attack rate (ADAR) was at 18.31 per 100,000 population.

    Vergeire said the projections are anchored on the adherence of the public to existing health protocols.

    “Rate of decline in NCR cases, whether under Alert Level 4 or 3, will greatly depend on our strategies,” she said.

    The independent OCTA Research group said the current Alert Level 4 in the NCR could be eased by one to two levels by the end of October to early next month if current improvements in the COVID-19 situation continue, including the “victory against the Delta variant.”

    OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David, during the Laging Handa public briefing, said the improving COVID-19 situation in Metro Manila is expected to continue towards the Christmas season.

    Improvements are likewise expected in other parts of the country, David said.

    “Based on our forecast, we think it (NCR) can be downgraded to Alert Level 3, and it is also possible to Alert Level 2, because we see moderate risk in Metro Manila. But be that as it may, we respect whatever criteria the IATF and the DOH will use to decide on the next alert level,” David also said.

    He said OCTA data shows that the region can be classified as low risk by the end of the month or early November, which, he added, would justify lowering the alert level system.

    The group’s figures show that the reproduction rate in the NCR is now at 0.63, while the positivity rate is at 12 percent and the seven-day average of new COVID cases is at 29 percent.

    David said the 29 percent seven-day average in new COVID-19 cases is the lowest since August 6 to 12, or the first week after the region was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). He said cases now number to around 1,900 from more than 2,000 cases during the ECQ period of July 31 to August 6.

    He said the positivity rate in Metro Manila is expected to further decrease to less than 10 percent.

    David also said there are lesser number of cases being reported in regions outside of the NCR, such as in the Calabarzon and Central Luzon, even if some areas in Northern Luzon and Western Mindanao are still experiencing a surge in Delta variant.

    ““We are managing the cases in Metro Manila. We are looking at the tail end of the Delta variant in the NCR and the surrounding areas of Calabarzon, Central Luzon. This is what we call the endgame of the Delta variant. It’s not over yet, but it’s getting less. We are already winning against the Delta variant,” he said.

    ‘HIGH RISK’

    David said that amid these improvements, attention should continue to be focused on the intensive care units (ICUs) utilization rate in Metro Manila, which remain high, and in regions where there are still high cases of COVID-19 such as in Northern Luzon, Zamboanga province and Bacolod.

    He also acknowledged that high cases have also been reported in some areas in the Mimaropa and Bicol regions.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the ICU bed occupancy in Metro Manila is at 69 percent, while it is at 70 percent for the rest of the country.

    Vergeire said that while Metro Manila stood at “moderate risk,” three regions outside of the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country remain at “high risk” classification.

    These are the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley, and Zamboanga Peninsula.

    Vergeire said CAR continue to have a positive case growth rate of 13 percent, Zamboanga Peninsula has eight (8) percent, and Cagayan Valley has three (3) percent.

    The average daily attack rates of the three regions also remain high at 49.55 for CAR, 35.12 for Cagayan Valley, and 9.83 for Zamboanga Peninsula.

    Meanwhile, eight regions are currently at moderate risk, namely NCR, Ilocos Region, Calabarzon, Davao Region, Caraga, Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and Mimaropa.

    The six remaining regions, namely Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen, Central Visayas, Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, are at “low risk” classification.

    The DOH said that despite the improvement in the COVID-19 situation, it is still not the time to become complacent.

    “While we see improvement in our case trends, this is not the time to be complacent. We should maximize our gains and continue to aggressively implement our local responses,” Vergeire said.

    “Not being able to sustain or improve the overall response at the local level will lead to increasing cases again. Please continue to adhere to our minimum public health standards and avoid closed spaces, crowded areas, and close contact with other people,” she added.

    DELTA VARIANT

    While David said the government was “winning against the Delta variant,” the DOH yesterday reported 411 additional Delta variant cases were detected by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), bringing the total number of the more transmissible variant to almost 4,000 cases.

    “The Delta variant (B.1.617.2/Indian lineage) is the most common lineage (3,798 cases, 26.2%) nationally among sequenced samples with lineage,” said Vergeire, attributing the continued dominance of the variant to the higher transmissibility of the said lineage.

    “Since the detection of local Delta cases collected in April, an increase in the proportion of Delta cases were seen for the succeeding months,” said the official.

    The DOH also reported that 78 additional cases (10.4%) of the Beta variant (B.1.351/South Africa) were detected, for a total of 3,307 Beta variant cases in the country.

    The DOH also reported 88 additional cases (11.8%) of the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7/UK). This brings to 2,935 the total number of Alpha variant cases detected in the country.