Covid cases up by 53% in NCR

CORONAVIRUS disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases had been increasing by as much as 53 percent in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) over the past week, but independent tracker OCTA Research said there is no need to reimpose stronger restrictions like lockdowns.

According to OCTA Research senior fellow Dr. Guido David, the seven-day average cases also jumped from 86 cases per day to 131.

The reproduction number in the region has increased, too, to 1.5, while the positivity rate rose to 2.7 percent.

David said if the current case trends continued, the NCR may experience around 200 to 300 cases in the coming days and 400-500 cases by the end of the month, and below a thousand cases across the country.

Despite the increasing numbers, hospital and intensive care unit utilization rates in the NCR remained stable at 23 and 18 percent, respectively.

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Dr. Jose Rene de Grano of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines echoed David's sentiments in a separate interview, saying while they are experiencing slight increases, non-Covid cases still dominate their facilities.

“Bumabalik na kasi ang mga pasyente sa mga ospital at nagkokonsulta na (The patients are now returning to the hospitals, and they are now consulting),” de Grano said, noting that most of Covid-19 cases in their hospitals are mostly unvaccinated or partly vaccinated.

David said there is a possibility that the Department of Health may escalate NCR to Alert Level 2 if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise and the risk level in the region worsens from low risk to moderate risk based on their own metrics.

“At the minimum, the government needs to decrease the capacities in public transport and indoor establishments so that it would allow more space and prevent crowding in establishments,” he added.

David urged private companies to delay their return to work and implement flexible working arrangements, which would also help workers deal with increased oil prices and fares.

In a separate forum organized by the Integrated Studies and Development Institute, OCTA founder Ranjit Rye said while it is yet premature to remove the current state of a public health emergency, he believes that this possible surge will not lead to a crippling lockdown that could affect the economy.

“We have seen that this [Covid-19] variant, if it becomes dominant, will provide us more leeway to make decisions veering away from lockdowns. I don't think we would have that kind of lockdowns like we had last year,” Rye added.

He urged the incoming administration of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to strengthen the public health system, improve the collection of taxes, and keep corruption at bay to allow the country to “restart” the economy that has been battered by the pandemic.

“You really have to start confronting the real problem, which is weak institutions, and that would require not just geniuses in the government, [but] it requires confronting the problem head-on and that would require a whole-of-nation approach, whether it is on Covid or on finance,” Rye said.

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