Professor Butch Ong of the OCTA Research Team expressed fear that the surge of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, if not addressed, can overwhelm the bed capacity of hospitals in Metro Manila.
“Medyo maganda ang hospital capacity (has been pretty good) for the past months. But now we see the two new variants (UK and South Africa COVID-19 variants), we are afraid, even if we have increased facilities, hospital capacity may soon be overwhelmed due to these variants,” Ong said during the Laging Handa public briefing on Monday, March 8.
“Now that the two new variants are in the Philippines, nakita natin na mas mataas ang surge ng new cases kaysa July last year (we saw a higher surge of new case than July last year),” he said.
Ong noted that the reproduction number in Metro Manila is at 1.66, which is close to the reproduction number in August 2020, when medical workers asked for a two-week “timeout.”
He identified the cities of Pasay, Makati, Malabon, and Navotas as high-risk areas.
“These are areas na medyo tumataas na ang number of cases (where the number of cases is increasing). So ang mungkahi ngayon (our suggestion now) is to be very vigilant and still perform the minimum health standards. The LGUs (local government units) should also implement localized response,” Ong said.
New COVID-19 cases also remain high in Quezon City with a positivity rate of 8 percent, Makati City at 10 percent, Pasig City at 9 percent, Navotas City at 8 percent, and Pasay City at 6 percent.
“Ibig sabihin nito, for every 100 tested, 10 are found positive. May clustering din per LGU. Maaaring nakuha sa mga areas na may mass gathering like palengke or malls at nadala nila sa bahay at dumarami na rin sa bara-barangay. Community transmission is quite high in NCR (National Capital Region). (This means, for every 100 tested, 10 are found positive. There is also clustering per LGU. They could have been obtained through mass gatherings like in markets or malls and brought home, which eventually spread in the barangays. Community transmission is quite high in NCR),” Ong explained.
“Pero meron tayong ilang areas na bumababa. Nakita natin ang Malabon at Navotas, ang trends are slowly going down but they are still quite high. Mayroon tayong mga communities na pababa, mayroong pataas, but in general, there is really an uptick of new cases in NCR at sa buong Pilipinas. (But we have some areas that (cases) are declining. In Malabon and Navotas, trends are slowly going down but they are still quite high. We have communities with declining cases, there are those with rising cases, but in general, there is really an uptick of new cases in NCR and throughout the Philippines),” he said.
He said it is possible that cases of new COVID-19 variants are “even higher than what we know now.”
“Kaya sinasabi namin na sana mas mabilis at mas efficient pa ang genome sequencing para malaman natin ilan ‘yung new variants. (Genome sequencing should be faster and more efficient so that we will know how many are the new variants),” he added, saying the result of genome sequencing is key to analyzing and identifying areas have the new variants.
Ong pointed out that local transmissions have been evident in the past few days.
“Ang family clustering meaning local community transmission ay mayroong local transmission na sa community natin. Another angle to this is children are also infected more now than before. Mas dumadami na ang children infected with COVID. Hindi lang yung adults or elderly ang tinatamaan. (Family clustering means there is already local community transmission. Another angle to this is children are also infected more now than before. More and more children are infected with COVID. It’s not just adults or the elderly who are affected),” he said.
“Sa ngayon, ang recommendation ng OCTA Research Team ay implement a more effective localized border control. Kaya kami naglalabas ng per area (assessment) dahil naniniwala kami na magiging effective naman ang community movement restrictions. (For now, the OCTA Research Team’s recommendation is to implement a more effective localized border control. That is why we are issuing per area assessment because we believe that community movement restrictions will be effective),” he added.
If the surge in cases is not addressed and minimum health standards is not properly implemented, Ong said the worst-case scenario will be 5,000 to 6,000 COVID-19 cases per day in the country by the end of March.