The reproduction number of the coronavirus in the National Capital Region (NCR) rose to 1.06, the first time it breached the 1.0 mark since April 18, signaling the continuous transmission of the virus, the OCTA Research Group said Tuesday.
In its latest report, OCTA said the average daily new cases in NCR increased by 11 percent to 701 from July 13 to July 19, breaking the daily average of less than 700 over the past four weeks.
“This uptick in the NCR is a cause for concern but not yet a cause for alarm, as it is still too early to determine if this will continue to be an increasing trend,” OCTA said.
This developed as concern over the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant came amid a World Health Organization (WHO) projection that it would soon become the dominant strain across the globe.
"The Delta variant of the coronavirus has now spread to more than a hundred countries,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO-Southeast Asia. “The way it is spreading, it will soon become the most dominant strain globally.”
Dr. NK Arora said on Monday that the Delta variant is about 40-60 percent more transmissible than its predecessor, the Alpha variant.
“The Delta variant has mutations in its spike protein that helps it bind to the ACE2 receptors present on the surface of the cells more firmly, making it more transmissible and capable of evading the body's immunity,” Arora said.
President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday night he is eyeing stricter health measures in preparation for the possible local transmission of the Delta variant.
“The reported local cases in the country are a cause for serious alarm and concern. Again, it's redundant but it's good as any warning that can be given to people. We may need to impose stricter restrictions to avoid mass gathering and prevent super spreader events," Duterte said in his pre-recorded Talk to the People.
Manila and Makati cities both recorded high reproduction numbers ranging between 1.1 and 1.4, OCTA said.
“This indicates an increasing trend in new cases in these two LGUs. Manila had a one-week growth rate of 35 percent while Makati had a one-week growth rate of 29 percent,” it said.
Other local governments with significant one-week growth rates were Valenzuela, Pasay, Marikina, and Parañaque.
OCTA said outside NCR, Mariveles remained “very high risk” for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Davao City, Cebu City, Bacolod, Iloilo City, Makati, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio City, General Santos, Laoag, Lapu Lapu, and Butuan were considered “high risk.”
OCTA said that Manila and Laoag had a significant increase in new daily cases while Cebu City, Laoag, Lapu Lapu, and Mariveles had very high infection rates.
Laoag and Mariveles also recorded high incidence rates, which refers to the number of new daily cases per 100,000 population.
Earlier, the Department of Health (DOH) reported eight more cases of the more transmissible Delta variant, one of which was detected in Manila.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the cases remain asymptomatic but must complete the 14-day isolation period.
Of the eight, four were detected in Cagayan de Oro, one each came from Manila and Misamis Oriental, and two were returning overseas Filipinos.
Vergeire said the cases were initially reported to have recovered from the disease after completing the 14-day quarantine period and showing no symptoms. However, people who have contracted the variants must be tested again for COVID-19 following DOH protocol, she said.
The authorities have traced 91 contacts for the 16 recent Delta variant cases as of Monday.
The tracing is ongoing, Vergeire said.
Vergeire said two of the three fatalities (78-year-old female from Antique and 58-year-old from Manila) were unvaccinated.
The DOH is still verifying the vaccination status of the third fatality (63-year-old male and crew member of the MV Athens Bridge).
Due to the presence of the Delta variant, Metro Manila mayors urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to suspend the policy allowing children 5 years old and above to go outdoors.
The government previously allowed these children to go outdoors in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ.
The Delta variant was first identified in October last year in India.
It is believed to be primarily responsible for the second wave in the country, accounting for over 80 percent of COVID-19 cases. It emerged in Maharashtra and travelled northwards along the western states of the country before entering the central and the eastern states of India.
The Philippines logged 4,516 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,517,903.
Fifty-eight new fatalities on Tuesday brought the COVID-19 death toll to 26,844.
The DOH also reported 5,240 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 1,444,253.
There were 46,806 active cases, of which 91.7 percent were mild, 2.1 percent were asymptomatic, 1.6 percent were critical, 2.7 percent were severe, and 1.9 percent were moderate.
Nationwide, 54 percent of ICU beds, 46 percent of isolation beds, 43 percent of ward beds, and 36 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 42 percent of ICU beds, 38 percent of isolation beds, 34 percent of ward beds, and 34 percent of ventilators, were in use.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said the government is looking for ways to keep contact tracers with expiring contracts on the job, as the country prepares for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant.
At the same time, she said the government needs to double the current oxygen supply, which will be sourced from manufacturers, in anticipation of a surge in cases.
"Currently, our supply of oxygen is sufficient according to hospitals, but of course, when we have the Delta variant and it’s going to increase the number of cases, we will be requiring twice as much," she told CNN Philippines.
In other developments:
• The DOH said 12 Filipino crew members of a vessel that had sailed from Indonesia tested positive for COVID-19, with 11 kept strictly aboard at a port in Albay and one under watch in Butuan after sneaking off the boat in his hometown. Vergeire said the patients are among 20 in an all-Filipino crew of a tugboat now docked in Albay. The eight others tested negative for the disease. She said the COVID-19 patients were isolated in their vessel and being monitored by the Coast Guard.
No one is allowed to disembark or enter the vessel, she said.
• Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso said one of the 36 contacts of the three patients afflicted with the Delta variant tested positive for the coronavirus. During the same contact tracing, Moreno said the 35 other contacts tested negative. Almost all of them are healthy, he said. The mayor said only two of the cases were residents of Manila.