The OCTA Research Team has found similar pattern of increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) to the patterns observed in Cebu City, Mountain Province, and Benguet, where specimens of the B.1.1.7 SARS-Cov2 UK variant were identified.
In its COVID-19 update issued on Sunday, Feb. 28, the group noted that the reproduction number in NCR has increased to 1.51 as it registered 1,019 new COVID-19 cases on Feb. 27.
“The three day average was 955, while the seven day average was 723, which represents a 62 percent increase from the previous week and an 88 percent increase compared to two weeks ago,” it said.
Moreover, the positivity rate in NCR increased to an average of 6 percent over the past seven days, based on an average of 18,000 polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests per day.
The two-week daily attack rate in NCR was 4.17 per 100,000.
The OCTA group had observed “steep” upward trends in COVID-19 cases in Pasay, Manila, Makati, Malabon, and Navotas.
“Quezon City, Valenzuela, Caloocan, Taguig, Parañaque, and Las Piñas also had notable increases in new cases,” it added.
“In Pasay, Makati, Malabon, and Navotas, the daily attack rate had already exceeded seven per 100,000, which classifies these LGUs (local government units) as high risk areas, according to DOH (Department of Health),” it said.
The experts, however, pointed out that hospital bed occupancy in NCR was still low at 36 percent, while intensive care unit bed occupancy was 51 percent.
“The reproduction number in NCR appears to be on an increasing trend, because as infections become more widespread, reversing the spread of the virus becomes more difficult,” OCTA said.
The reproduction number provides the average number of secondary infections by each infected individual. In comparison, the reproduction number in the Philippines is 1.22.
The group warned that if the reproduction number remains at 1.5 in NCR, the number of new COVID-19 cases per day will increase from its current average daily value of 770 to 2,200 by the end of March 2021.
Likewise, the total number of cases in NCR will have increased by 19 percent from the current 234,754 cases to 280,000 by the end of March.
“The total number of deaths in NCR under this scenario would be 5,700, i.e. 920 new deaths will be reported between now and the end of March,” OCTA said.
The experts noted that the reproduction number can be reduced to a modest goal of 1.2 through “active health campaign, strict implementation of the current quarantine protocols, an initial vaccination rollout, and more localized lockdowns.”
They explained that reducing the reproduction number will not decrease the number of new COVID-19 cases but will control its increase to 1,000 daily cases by end of March, for a total of 260,000 cases in NCR or an 11 percent increase compared to the current total.
“The total number of deaths under this scenario would be 5,300, or an additional 520 deaths compared to the current value. This would mean that 43 percent less deaths due to COVID-19 would occur in NCR by reducing the number of infections compared to the status quo,” they added.
Furthermore, the OCTA Research Team observed that the COVID-19 cases in Baguio City and Tabuk, Kalinga had slight upward trends, while the daily attack rate in both areas also increased above seven per 100,000.
Cebu City’s upward trend has slowed down but remains to have the most number of new COVID-19 cases at an average of 222 cases per day for the past seven days.
Cebu City’s reproduction number has also decreased to 1.38, the group said.
On the national level, the OCTA Research Team said that if the status quo continues and the reproduction number remains at around 1.2, the country is projected to have 665,000 COVID-19 cases and 14,000 deaths by the end of March.
However, if the reproduction number is reduced to 1, the total number of COVID-19 cases is projected to be 640,000 by month’s end, with 13,500 deaths, it said.
Meanwhile, if the reproduction number continues to increase and new COVID-19 cases continue to escalate, especially in the NCR, the projection is 715,000 cases and 15,000 deaths by the end of March.