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OCTA warns infection rate still rising; restrictions amid Delta loom

The COVID-19 reproduction number in Metro Manila has risen to 1.08, signaling the sustained transmission of the coronavirus as the country braces for its more contagious Delta variant, independent researchers tracking the pandemic said Wednesday.

In its latest monitoring report, the OCTA Research Group said the National Capital Region (NCR) averaged 744 new cases daily from July 14 to 20, up from 629 daily new infections from July 7 to 13.

Metro Manila also logged an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 5.39 cases per 100,000 population and a positivity rate of 6 percent. Intensive care unit (ICU) usage was at 42 percent.

OCTA said while the increase in infections in Metro Manila was a cause for concern, it was not yet alarming.

“As it is still too early to determine if this will continue to [be] an increasing trend,” OCTA said.

The Philippines currently has eight active cases of the highly contagious Delta variant, six of whom are local infections.

Malacañang said some restrictions will likely be reimposed as the threat of the Delta variant looms.

“It is scientifically proven that the Delta variant is more contagious and that’s why the President said we may have to restore some restrictions and that seems like a sure thing already,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in Filipino.

Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, or IATF, will meet on Thursday to discuss the recommendation of experts to suspend the policy allowing children aged 5 to 17 to go outside their homes.

Areas flagged as high risk by OCTA due to high ADAR, ICU utilization, or positivity rates were Davao City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Bacolod, Makati, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Baguio, Taguig, Laoag, and Mariveles.

Davao City continued to log the highest average number of new cases with 218 fresh infections per day from July 14 to 20. Its ICU utilization rate was also tagged as “very high” at 91 percent.

The ICU utilization rate was also high in Iloilo City at 99 percent and in Taguig at 92 percent.

High-risk areas that registered a “very high” positivity rates were Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Baguio, and Laoag.

Nationally, the reproduction number stood at 0.98 while the ICU utilization rate was 54 percent, and the positivity rate was 11 percent.

During his Monday public address, President Duterte said the government would have to reimpose stricter measures in view of the arrival of the Delta variant. He said the stricter measures would bar large gatherings to avoid super-spreader events.

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday the agency has yet to determine if there has been a local transmission of the infectious Delta variant.

However, an infectious disease and vaccine expert said the variant may already be spreading locally.

“When we say it’s local transmission, there is already linkage among these individuals who we have detected [with the] Delta variant,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an interview on Unang Balita.

“For now, we are yet to determine that, so we have not yet pronounced local transmission,” Vergeire said.

In a separate Palace briefing, Dr. Rontgene Solante said it was possible that local transmission of the Delta variant is already ongoing.

“I would speculate that based on the cases that were documented by the Philippine Genome Center that there are those cases unrelated to the returning Filipino workers,” Solante said.

“So, there are what we call local cases and with that demographic, then I would say it seems that there is local transmission of the Delta variant,” he said in Filipino.

Solante assured the public, however, that the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective even against variants of concern like Alpha, Beta, and Delta.

Solante said that fully-vaccinated individuals are at lower risk of the threat posed by the Delta variant.

The Philippines has so far detected 35 Delta variant cases, 11 of which are local.

Eight Delta cases are still active.

An infectious diseases expert on Tuesday urged the government to prepare, as she expressed worries that the Philippines may experience a surge in COVID-19 cases similar to Indonesia’s because of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Pediatric infectious diseases expert from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) Dr. Anna Ong Lim said the best thing to prevent another surge is to ensure that the elderly and adults with comorbidities get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible.

“Yes, I am worried,” Lim said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo. 

“We know that we have a big vaccine supply issue, so what’s important is the vaccination of those in the A2 and A3 group. If there are still those in A2 and A3 in your family who have not yet been vaccinated, bring them to the centers,” she said.

“If the LGUs cannot do it, you have to do something about it on your own. It’s the only way we can prevent being overwhelmed,” she said.

Citing the situation in other countries where hospitals have been filled with patients, Lim said this can be prevented by ensuring the elderly people and those with comorbidities are protected through vaccination.

Authorities should also prepare facilities for the mild and moderate cases, so that there will be enough hospital beds for the severe and critical cases, she said.

She said there should be proper monitoring as well in case local governments decide to allow home quarantine for mild and moderate cases.

The DOH said eight Filipinos who had supposedly recovered from the highly contagious Delta variant tested positive again for the coronavirus, based on their latest RT-PCR results.

Vergeire said of the eight active Delta variant cases, four are in Cagayan de Oro, one is in Manila, another one is in Misamis Oriental, while two others are returning Filipinos.

The Philippines logged 6,560 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the country’s total number of infections to 1,524,449.

Thirty-two new fatalities brought the COVID-19 death toll to 26,874. 

Total recoveries went up to 1,449,579, with 5,364 new ones.

There were 47,996 active cases. Of these, 92.1 percent were mild, 18 percent were asymptomatic, 1.6 percent were critical, 2.6 percent were severe, and 1.84 percent were moderate.

The DOH has begun stockpiling oxygen to prepare for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.

“When there was a surge in India, we already considered that if this happens to us, we will have to now prepare for the oxygen supply, so that we will not lose lives,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“Because in India, they lost a lot of lives due to a shortage of oxygen,” he said.

The DOH said it is also coordinating with local government units to stockpile oxygen.

“We did inventories also across the different hospitals of the country where we saw a sufficient existing supply of oxygen,” Vergeire said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“But we would like to anticipate because, in other countries, it took them twice as much as their current need for oxygen… because of the surge that they’ve had,” she added.

Meanwhile, the DOH said the 12 Filipino crew members of a vessel that recently arrived from Indonesia are now self-isolating after they tested positive for COVID-19.

Eleven of the crewmen are currently aboard the vessel docked at the Albay port, while a crew member remained in Butuan City after he left the vessel to return to his hometown, Vergeire said.

“If ever somebody [becomes] symptomatic, they will be immediately transported to a nearby hospital,” she said.

She also said the close contacts and the family of the crew member who disembarked in Butuan are under quarantine.

The Philippine Coast Guard said the vessels—the towing vessel, MT Clyde, which is towing the barge Claudia—came from Indonesia and docked at a port in Butuan on July 14, where the crew members got tested for COVID-19.

At the same time, two housemates of the lone confirmed Delta variant case in Misamis Oriental have tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Vicente Emano said Wednesday.

The entire household, who are in Gingoog City, had been isolated, he said.

Gingoog has been placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) following confirmation of the Delta variant case there.

Topics: COVID-19 , Delta variant , Metro Manila , OCTA Research Group
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