Experts from the OCTA Research team reported on Tuesday that hotspots or areas that had the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks were Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Batangas, Laguna, Bulacan, Negros Occidental, and Iloilo.
In its latest monitoring report, the OCTA Research Team also urged the government to consider re-imposing a stricter quarantine classification or implementing localized lockdowns in Bauan in Batangas, Calbayog in Western Samar, and General Trias in Cavite.
The OCTA Research team is an independent and inter--disciplinary group composed of experts from various institutions, including the University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas.
The tightening of restrictions in three areas was recommended due to the increasing daily attack rate of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
The daily attack rate per 1,000 people in Bauan rose from 6.2 percent on October 4 to 11.9 percent on October 11, in Calbayog from 5.1 percent to 8 percent, and in General Trias from 4.9 percent to 7.6 percent.
The attack rate refers to the number of new cases per day relative to the population.
The experts explained that German protocols recommend a stricter quarantine “if there is an increase in new cases for two weeks and the daily attack rate is greater than 7% per 1,000 (equivalent to 50 new cases per week per 100,000 population).”
They also suggested stricter restrictions in areas with limited hospital capacity or hospital occupancy rates higher than 70 percent.
The OCTA Research also observed two weeks of increasing daily attack rate in Iloilo City, Lucena, Batangas City, Silay, Dasmariñas, Olongapo, Bocaue, Meycauayan, and Kabankalan.
“Given the analysis of attack rates in the NCR and other cities and municipalities around the country, we urge the national and local government to intensify their efforts at testing, tracing, and isolation to reverse the increase of transmissions in these local government units.”
But despite the increasing daily attack rates in certain areas, the experts said the Philippines has managed to sustain the downward trend of new infections.
In Metro Manila, the country’s COVID-19 epicenter, the number of new cases per day has fallen below 1,000.
“But these positive trends are not irreversible and significant efforts have to be undertaken by all stakeholders to sustain it,” the OCTA researchers said.
The Philippines has tallied 342,816 COVID-19 cases as of Monday afternoon, the 18th highest worldwide.
The experts also urged the government to carefully study proposals to resume or expand certain socio-economic activities “to ensure that these will not contribute to further transmission of the virus.”
The government’s inter-agency COVID-19 task force earlier said it supported the further reopening of the economy amid the pandemic.
“The reality of a surge in viral transmissions will not be a question of if but of when and by how much. It is in this light that we reiterate the urgent need for [the] government to scale up capacities of our healthcare system,” the researchers said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health said the Philippines ranking 18th of countries with the most number of COVID-19 cases is not a cause for worry because it is not reflective of the country’s current situation with regards to the pandemic.
The World Health Organization representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the relatively high number of confirmed infections in the country is mainly due to its large population and increased testing capacity.
“Huwag po dapat tayo matakot na pang-labing walo tayo. Kailangan makita natin ilan ang napapagaling natin. Ilan po ba ang nababawas sa ganyan kadaming numero. (We should not be afraid that we’re 18th. We should also look at how many have recovered. How many have been removed from the large tally.),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
As of 6 p.m. Monday, the Philippines’ 342,816 cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases pushed the country up to the 18th spot among countries being monitored by the US-based Johns Hopkins University for their respective caseloads.
Abeyasinghe, for his part, said that “the number of cases reported in a country is dependent on its population size and its capacity to detect.”
Abeyasinghe pointed out that the Philippines is the 12th or 13th country with the largest population in the world.
“And from a testing capacity, (the Philippines has) a significantly higher testing capacity than other countries in this part of the region,” he added.
Abeyasinghe also noted that the Philippines had a much lower number of fatalities compared to other countries.
“You have to look at it a comprehensive perspective,” Abeyasinghe said of the global tally of COVID-19 cases.
Vergeire also pointed out that the ranking is based on the cumulative number of cases or those tallied since the start of the pandemic.
“Kailangan ang makita natin yung aktibong kaso po. Kasi yan pong total number of cases natin, 82% po dyan nakarecover na at meron tayo sa ngayon na 1.8% na mga namatay (We should look at the active cases. Because of the total number of cases, 82% have already recovered and around 1.8% have died.),” she said.
She said current infections are now only at around 15 percent.
The DOH reported Monday that the active cases in the country are 43,332, of which, 83.9 percent have mild symptoms, 10.8 percent are asymptomatic, 3.6 percent are in critical condition, and 1.7 percent are severe cases.
The total recoveries are 293,152, while the death toll is 6,332.
“It has to be taken on a comprehensive and complete analysis when we look at these numbers para po hindi natatakot ang ating mga kababayan (so our citizens won’t be scared),” said Vergeire.
She added that the capability of the health system to care for patients should also be taken into consideration.
Based on the latest COVID-19 tracker report of the DOH, more than 3.8 million individuals have already been tested in the country of over 100 million people since the pandemic reached the Philippines in late January.
The country’s accredited testing laboratories have also increased to 134.
Of the 1,270 facilities for COVID-19 patients, bed occupancy is at 44.6 percent.
The number of health workers infected with the virus, meanwhile, has reached 10,244 as of October 11, 2020, according to the DOH weekly Situationer Report on COVID-19 released Monday, after 66 more health workers were infected.
Of the 10,244 health care workers positive for COVID-19, a total of 9,770 or 95.4 percent have recovered; 63 or 0.6 percent have died; and 411 or 4 percent were active cases, the DOH reported.
Of these cases, 245 or 59.6 percent were mild cases; 133 or 32.4 percent were asymptomatic; 22 or 5.4 percent in severe condition; and 11 or 2.7 percent in critical condition.
As of October 11, the DOH also reported a total of 437,213 Returning Overseas Filipinos arrived in the country.
Of the number, 243,237 are land-based; 192,390 are sea-based; 1,586 are transferees from Sabah.
Of the total, 433,173 were already released from quarantine facilities —240,763 land-based; 190,824 sea-based; and 1,586 Sabah.
Among the ROFs, 9,105 were confirmed COVID-19 patients —4,806 land-based; and 4,299 sea-based.
Of these, 427 are currently admitted, 8,574 have already recovered and five died, the DOH said.
In a related development, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the government should consider allowing residents aged 18 to 65 to go out of their homes from the current 21 to 60 years old, as recommended by the Metro Manila Council.
“Kailangan na talagang mag-adjust tayo dito sa sa bagong normal na tinatawag. Kailangan nating lumabas para kumita ng kabuhayan (We really need to adjust to the new normal, we need to go out for our livelihood.),” Cabral said in a television interview.
“Yung mga matatanda naman kawawa naman sila. Seven months nang nakakulong. Hindi na talaga mahusay ‘yun para sa kanilang mental, physical health. Kailangan nila ng konting activity (The elderly have been locked inside their homes for 7 months. It’s not good for their mental and physical health. They need a little activity.),” she said.
The public, however, must practice minimum health standards when going outside, Cabral said.
“Kailangan talaga consistent tayo sa paggamit ng (face) mask at shield nang tama (We need to be consistent in wearing face masks and face shields correctly.),” she added.
Cabral said authorities are also considering a one-seat apart policy instead of the 1-meter physical distancing measure on public transportation to accommodate more passengers.
“Bagamat 1 meter ang distancing nila sa loob ng bus, sa labas naman naggigitgitan sila kasi nagaantay sila makasakay. Dun sila magkakahawa-hawa naman (Even though they are one meter apart inside the bus, outside they are crammed with each other while waiting for the chance to get on. That’s where they are infected.),” said Cabral.
Tourists destinations may also open provided that health protocols are in place, she added.