THE independent OCTA research team yesterday warned that the country could see 5,000 to 6,000 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases a day by the end of March, with Metro Manila bearing the brunt of an average of 3,000 cases daily.
“Based on the current reproduction number of 1.66, NCR is projected to have 2,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by March 21, and 3,000 new cases per day by the end of March,” the OCTA team said.
Factor in the rising cases in other regions and OCTA said “the country is projected to have 5,000 to 6,000 new cases per day by the end of March.”
Nationwide, the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday reported 3,276 new cases, the third straight day the number of infections breached the 3,000 mark. Last Friday, the DOH reported 3,045 cases and 3,439 cases on Saturday.
Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega admitted the recent surge in cases is “alarming” and needs to be addressed. He did not say, however, how the DOH intends to address the alarming spike.
The DOH currently leaves it to local government units to impose localized lockdowns.
In a radio interview, Vega said the uptick in cases is nearing the midway point of numbers seen during the peak of the health crisis in the country last August.
“This is already alarming. If you look at the data, the trend is really increasing. There is an increase in the number of active cases,” said Vega. “If you look at the cases, then compare (it with) the August 2020 cases, wherein we reached 5,000 cases, we are already near the middle. In other words, we are now in the middle of that peak before.”
Last Wednesday, OCTA said if the alarming surge in cases is not contained, the country could be seeing 715,000 cases and 14,000 deaths by the end of March.
If the current surge of at least 3,000 new cases daily nationwide is not contained, the number of total infections is expected to reach more than 666,000 by end-March. If the number surges to 5,000 daily, the infections could reach more than 714,000 and more than 738,000 if the infections spike to 6,000 daily.
The OCTA team said Metro Manila has averaged 1,025 new cases per day over the past seven days or from February 28 to March 6.
“The last time the region had seen this rate of increase was in July 2021,” the research group said.
Among NCR cities, OCTA said very sharp two-week increases of more than 40 percent per week have been observed in Quezon City, Makati, Taguig, Parañaque, Caloocan, and Mandaluyong.
Data shows Quezon City had an increase from 116 cases to 185, Makati City from 56 to 91, Taguig City from 32 to 57, Parañaque from 31 cases to 56, Caloocan from 32 to 47, and Mandaluyong from 15 to 33.
Overall, the number of infections in the country rose to 594,412 as of yesterday, with 51 more patients dying. The death toll rose to 12,516 for a case fatality rate of 2.11.
There were 10,516 more recoveries, raising the number of survivors to 545,853, but there remained 36,043 active cases of which 90.6 percent are mild cases, 4.2 percent asymptomatic cases, 2.2 percent critical cases, 2.1 percent severe cases, and 0.91 percent moderate cases.
The Department of Foreign Affairs reported 10 more new cases among overseas Filipinos, bringing the total number to 15,089, with five more dying. The death toll among overseas Filipinos is now at 1,038.
Asked if he believes the uptick is the start of the feared second wave in the country, Vega said it is still difficult to say.
“We can see an uptick in cases. Once we see that it is already progressive, consistent, and is nearing the 2020 peak, then we can say it is possibly the 2nd wave,” he explained. But at this time, we don’t. It is still difficult to say it is already the second wave.”
Vega, the country’s “treatment czar,” said all hospitals must start preparing for the surge of new cases. He said this includes observing the mandated number of COVID-19 beds – 30 percent for government hospitals and 20 percent for private hospitals.
Meanwhile, Philippine College of Emergency Medicine (PCEM) President Dr Pauline Concovar said they are slowly seeing an increase in patients coming to emergency rooms.
“We are validating the observation that we are already feeling the increase in COVID-19 cases across emergency departments of hospitals,” said Concovar.
“There are hospital tents that were no longer being used. Unfortunately, they are being used again now as well as other additional wards,” she added, adding they have observed “family clusters.”
“There is family clustering. Before, we just count individual cases. Recently, we noticed that they are already coming as families,” she said. “They live in one household so it is understandable that they may be infected together.”
The deadly virus has claimed another policeman, bringing to 32 the number of PNP personnel who have died due to the disease, according to the PNP.
The 54-year-old fatality, with a rank of executive master sergeant, was assigned at the PNP Intelligence Group in Camp Crame
He was rushed to the PNP General Hospital last Friday morning after losing conscious.
Doctors diagnosed him to be unresponsive and in cardio-pulmonary arrest. He was pronounced dead 23 minutes after arrival at the hospital.
The policeman was later found to be positive for COVID-19.
The PNP reported 28 more cases among policemen, increasing the total cases in the PNP to 11,641 as of Saturday. Of the total cases, 11,059 have recovered, while 550 are still active cases. – With Ashzel Hachero and Victor Reyes