New virus cases on uptrend, spreading fast—researchers

The upward trend in Metro Manila’s new COVID-19 cases is expected to continue, even though localized lockdowns may have helped slow it down, University of the Philippines researchers who have been tracking the pandemic said Thursday.

In its Feb. 25 report, the OCTA Research Team said after daily cases in the National Capital Region rose to 719 in Feb. 22, the number fell to 474 on Feb. 24.

However, the reproduction number has continued to increase, clocking in at 1.32 from 1.22 on Feb. 21, OCTA said.

“New cases in NCR are expected to increase at least in the short term,” the group said.

“Positivity rate in NCR was 5 percent over the past seven days,” they said.

The reproduction number is the expected number of new infections an infected individual may cause in a population where everyone is susceptible. A reproduction number of one or higher is an indication of the continuous transmission of the virus.

The positivity rate is the percentage of those who test positive from all who are tested.

Pasay City, which last week enforced lockdowns in 33 barangays due to a spike in cases, saw a 160 percent surge in new cases from Feb. 16 to 22 — 81 new cases compared to 31 the week before.

OCTA found that Malabon, Manila, Makati, Taguig, Parañaque and Marikina cities also saw higher than 40 percent increases in new COVID cases compared to the previous two weeks.

The best-performing local government in Metro Manila last week, meanwhile, has been Mandaluyong, with a low positivity rate of 2 percent and a low daily attack rate of 2.44 per 100,000.

Nationwide, Cebu City saw the highest number of new COVID-19 cases, with a daily average of 220 for the past seven days (Feb. 16 to 22), a high positivity rate of 16 percent and a very high daily attack rate of 21 per 100,000. However, OCTA said the trend has slowed down.

“Hospital occupancy was still moderate at 53 percent, as the increase in critical care utilization has been controlled not just by the slowing down of the pandemic in Cebu City, but also the continued pandemic management of the local government, which helped increase hospital bed capacity by at least 10 percent,” OCTA said.

OCTA welcomed the government’s decision to defer the country’s transition to the lowest level of quarantine, as the expected arrival of vaccines has been delayed time and again./

The Philippines logged on Friday 2,651 new COVID-19 cases Friday, one of the highest single-day figures in more than four months, bringing the total number of cases to 571,327, as eight laboratories failed to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.

The total is the highest since Oct. 17 last year.

This was also the second straight day that new infections were more than 2,000.

There were 46 new fatalities Friday, bringing the death toll to 12,247, which is 2.14 percent of total cases.

The DOH also reported that 561 patients have recently recovered, based on the government’s “mass recovery adjustment.” This brings total recoveries to 524,582, which is 91.8 percent of the total recoveries.

This left 34,498 active cases, which is 6 percent of the total number of cases. Of the active cases, 88.4 percent are mild; 6.4 percent are asymptomatic; 2.3 percent are critical; 2.1 percent are severe; and 0.74 percent are moderate.

In Manila, Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said under a best case scenario, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines would arrive in his city in March.

In a worst-case scenario, they would arrive in September, he added.

Last week, the city government disbursed 20 percent down payment for the vaccines, amounting to P38.4 million.

Manila has earlier secured 800,000 doses of anti-coronavirus vaccines from the British pharmaceutical firm, which will be used to inoculate 400,000 residents.

Domagoso said about 90,000 residents have pre-registered for the city’s vaccine program.

They will receive the COVID-19 vaccine after the priority groups, which will include medical frontliners, the elderly, and teachers.

Amid the resurgent spread of COVID-19, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte called for tighter enforcement of health protocols and ordered city health and safety teams to beef up efforts to ensure that precautions are observed at all times.

She said the city’s positive cases have been increasing steadily for the past two weeks.

“We have observed that the public is becoming lax in taking COVID precautions. But we’d like to remind them that the virus is still very much in our midst, and this could possibly include a number of its variants. This is no time to relax,” she cited.

The city has recorded a 7 percent increase in its active cases with 1,007 cases registered on Feb. 26 compared to 945 cases last Feb. 12.

Belmonte said following minimum health protocols, such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding big gatherings, remain vital in keeping the virus from spreading.

Also on Friday, a health advocacy group called for a stepped-up information drive to boost public confidence on vaccination.

This, after a recent study showed that only 19 percent of adult Filipinos were willing to get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19.

Josh San Pedro, co-convenor of the Coalition for People’s Right to Health, said the study’s result was “really concerning” because the government’s target is to inoculate 70 percent of the population.

San Pedro said that while having leaders receive the vaccine in public could inspire them to also “vicariously trust in the vaccination, more has to be done to convince the populace.”

“There has to be a better sense of communication. It’s not just finding somebody who will join in the uncertainty of being vaccinated, San Pedro told ANC’s Headstart.

San Pedro said a lot of the “anxiety” surrounding the coronavirus jabs is rooted in this lack of communication and the “continuing trauma on vaccination issues in the past.”

“There has to be a community-level effort in increasing vaccine confidence, and that involves transparency, that involves proper communication, and that involves people putting that information where it is accessible,” San Pedro said.

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