Independent researchers tracking the coronavirus pandemic said the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is likely to drop to 5,000 to 6,000 a day by the end of October—two months ahead of their previous estimates—but doctors warned against complacency and easing restrictions too soon.
The OCTA Research Group on Sunday said the numbers have been steadily improving over recent days, with the daily count of new cases no longer surpassing 10,000.
The reproduction number—or the number of people one infected person can infect—has dropped to only 0.64 nationwide, and the seven-day average cases are 8,400, OCTA fellow Guido David said.
He said the hospital utilization rate is also declining, based on data from the Department of Health. In Metro Manila, it is said to be only 47 percent, but the intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rate is still high.
Just last Sept. 29, David said new COVID-19 cases in the country may decrease to around 5,000 to 6,000 per day by December. He said the projected decrease in cases is because the surge of infections is already ending in Metro Manila and other areas.
David said that Metro Manila, which last month was under alert level 4, may be scaled down to alert level 1 or 2 by December.
As cases declined, Metro Manila was downgraded to Alert Level 3 on Saturday.
But doctors expressed concern over the easing of restrictions.
"We are worried that based on previous experience, every time we ease restrictions, the people forget observance of health protocols," said Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP).
In an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, she said hospitals remain short-staffed because of virus infections among health workers, and the expected exodus of nurses following intensified recruitment in the United Kingdom and the United States.
As businesses open, she recommended a physical distancing of two meters and urged the public to observe minimum health standards
"If we don't have anything important to do, we should remain home. Let's protect ourselves and our loved ones," she said.
An infectious disease expert, Dr. Rontgene Solante, said ICU utilization was still high at 75 percent.
Despite the decline in cases, he said, the country is far from achieving herd immunity and the target of vaccinating 90 percent of the target population.
At present, he said, only 31 percent of the target population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Department of Health (DOH) logged 6,913 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, which brought total infections to 2,720,368.
There were 95 new fatalities, raising the COVID-19 death toll to 40,675.
On the other hand, there were 10,237 recent recoveries, bringing total recoveries to 2,598,052, or 95.5 percent of all infections.
There were 81,641 active cases, representing 3 percent of all confirmed cases. Of the active cases, 87.5 percent were mild or asymptomatic.
Some 12.5 percent of 53,669 people who were tested were found positive for COVID-19 on Friday.