OCTA warns of 500,000 infections by yearend

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    HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday said there has been an upward trend in new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in recent days, attributing this to the successive typhoons that forced thousands of families to evacuate and the easing of community restrictions going into the Christmas season.

    Given such a trend, the OCTA Research Team said it is highly possible that infections in the country may reach 500,000 by year’s end.

    A day after the country recovered over 2,000 new cases, the Department of Health reported 1,773 new cases yesterday, raising the number of infections in the country to 431,630, while 19 more patients succumbed to the deadly virus that has now claimed 8,392 lives for a case fatality rate of 1.94 percent.

    In a televised public briefing, Duque said: “There is a slight increase in COVID-19 cases if we use the two-week growth rate and average attack rate as basis.

    “Cases have been lower the past two weeks as compared to the previous 3 to 4 weeks. If I’m not mistaken, it is in the negative. However, we have also noticed that the decrease in cases is getting smaller recently. In other words, cases are slowly growing,” he added.

    He said the sudden influx of people in evacuation centers may have “caused a surge in cases.”

    Duque also pointed to the further easing of community restrictions that allowed more people to go out for the coming Christmas season.

    “As Christmas draws nearer, the number of people going out of their homes increase, with some becoming forgetful of following the minimum health standards, like wearing of masks, physical distancing, use of alcohol,” said Duque.

    In its latest monitoring report, OCTA said it wouldn’t be farfetched if there would be half a million COVID cases in the country come December 31.

    “Our current projections for December 31: a lower estimate of 470,000 and an upper estimate of 500,000 with a mean of 485,000 COVID-19 cases,” OCTA said, adding its calculation of the reproduction number in the Philippines has increased from 0.83 to 0.88 although it remains below the critical level observed during November 22 to 28.

    The number of new cases per day in the Philippines, it added, remains “relatively flat” although increasing slightly from 1,502 to 1,564.

    The research team also said five local government units continue to be considered as “high risk” due to high cases, high positivity rate, and high hospital occupancy.

    The five are Makati City; Lucena, Quezon; Batangas City, Batangas; Davao City, Davao del Sur; and Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur.

    “We are concerned that these LGUs may experience high hospital burden in the coming weeks that may stress their health care systems and overwhelm their medical frontliners,” said OCTA.

    Of the 1,773 new cases reported yesterday, 104 came from Rizal while Cavite had 99, Negros Occidental 88, Davao City 79, and Laguna 72.

    There were 44 new recoveries, meaning the number of survivors has risen to 398,658. The DOH said this means that 92.4 percent of patients have recovered.

    Less the deaths and recoveries, the DOH said there are 24,580 active cases in the country, accounting for 5.7 percent of cases in the country.

    Of the active cases, 83.5 percent are mild cases, 7.5 percent are asymptomatic cases, 5.7 percent are critical cases, 3 percent are severe cases, and 0.31 percent are moderate cases.

    Two more overseas Filipinos succumbed to the deadly virus while 16 more have been infected, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

    In all, 847 overseas Filipinos have died while the number of cases climbed to 11,692 in 82 countries, with 7,497 having recovered.

    Nine of the 16 new cases were reported in the Middle East and African regions, bringing the number of cases among members of the Filipino community there to 7,544. Europe also recorded 7 new cases, bringing the number to 1,383. – With Ashzel Hachero