A research group monitoring the coronavirus disease situation in the Philippines warned of a possible gradual rise in COVID-19 cases across the country after it noted a slight increase in daily new cases nationwide, especially in Metro Manila, in the past week.
In its latest monitoring report issued Wednesday, the OCTA Research Team also observed a rise in the reproduction number in the National Capital Region from 0.76 from Nov. 10 to 16 to 0.83 from Nov. 17 to 23, while it remained at 0.83 in the Philippines during the same period.
Despite this slight increase, the research team emphasized that the reproduction rate is still below 1 which indicated a downward trend in the new cases.
The positivity rate, or the share of tests that come back positive, is also still low at 4 percent, below the 5 percent recommended by the World Health Organization.
Metro Manila remains to be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country and the region which still has the highest number of new cases per day in the past week with 373 from 352 recorded from Nov. 11 to 17.
OCTA observed that nine LGUs in the capital region showed an increase in cases including Caloocan, Quezon City, Marikina, Makati, Mandaluyong, Paranaque, Pasay, Navotas, and San Juan.
The same was also noted in CALABARZON, Central Luzon, and in Western Visayas where new cases per day also rose to 338, 185, and 110, respectively.
According to OCTA, it is not clear if the increase in new cases across the country was due to the rise in mobility; the effects of the recent typhoons which include delays in test reports; or the “deteriorating compliance” of the public with the minimum health standards because of pandemic fatigue.
“What is clear is that if this trend continues, it would indicate that we are beginning to see a gradual rise in cases of COVID-19,” the team said.
While the recent monitoring may be a cause for concern, OCTA pointed out that it should not be a cause for alarm or panic as the situation in the country is still manageable.
The group warned that the current positive trends in the Philippines and in the NCR are “tenuous and can easily be reversed” if the government, the private sector, and the public become less vigilant and complacent in the fight against COVID-19.
To sustain these positive trends, OCTA called on the national and local governments to work together to limit the spread of new cases through increasing testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and the implementation of small, targeted lockdowns to contain “super-spreading events” in LGUs.
Citizens must also continue to be vigilant and disciplined in following the minimum health standards set by the Department of Health, it added.
“We urge the national and the local governments to strictly monitor and enforce compliance with minimum health standards such as physical distancing, the wearing of face mask and face shields, and proper hygiene to reverse the increase in transmissions at the community level, the team said.
The OCTA team is an independent and interdisciplinary research group that has been studying the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines. It is composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni with contributors from the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College, USA.