OCTA warns of spike in COVID cases in NCR

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    EASED restrictions in public transportation came as a boon to commuters but will not help in the country’s fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the National Capital Region.

    This was stressed yesterday by the independent OCTA Research Team of University of the Philippines, which warned of a possible spike in COVID cases in Metro Manila in the next two weeks due to more people being able to take public transport and, in the process, spreading the dreaded virus.

    Prof. Guido David of OCTA, in a television interview, said the number of infections in the country may reach 500,000 by the end of November. As of yesterday, the total number of cases in the country has reached 373,144.

    “Use of public transport in the NCR increased slowly but steadily in the past week. We expect that this will trigger an increase in new COVID-19 cases in the NCR in the next two weeks,” OCTA said.

    “As the national government continues to expand economic activity, the reality of an increase in viral transmissions will not be a question of if, but of when and by how much,” it added.

    Two weeks ago, Malacañang approved the proposed one-seat-apart policy in public transportation, enabling more commuters to travel by jeepneys, buses, and other public utility vehicles.

    Aside from the expanded use of public transportation, the OCTA team noted that there are now more local government units (LGUs) considered as high risk areas, from 10 last week to 18 as of Monday, October 26.

    These Pasay, Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Baguio City, Itogon (Benguet); Calamba (Laguna), Angono, Cainta, and Taytay (Rizal), Lucena (Quezon), Ilagan (Isabela), Batangas City, General Trias (Cavite), Iloilo City, San Carlos City (Negros Occidental), Davao City, and Butuan City (Agusan del Norte).

    High risk areas are areas with high cases of infections per day, high attack rate, and/or high hospital occupancy.

    “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,” OCTA said.

    The research team said there is a need to further increase the capacity of the national health care system, including manpower, equipment, and bed capacity. It also stressed the necessity of increased testing to cope with the expected surge in cases.

    OCTA also said it is imperative to continue to build more isolation facilities not just in the NCR but in other regions around the country where hospital capacities are limited. It also said government must improve pandemic surveillance around the country that can help LGUs in determining when to impose localized lockdown.

    OCTA also reiterated the need for strict monitoring and enforcement of compliance with minimum health standards, such as physical distancing, the wearing of face mask and face shields, and proper hygiene, to reverse the surge in transmissions at the community level.

    For the second straight day, less than 2,000 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases were reported by the Department of Health (DOH) but there were 14 more deaths.

    In its latest bulletin, the DOH said that of the 1,524 new cases, Negros Occidental reported 115, Cavite 76, Benguet 72, Quezon City 67, and Laguna 65.

    In all, the number of infections in the country rose to 373,144.