Group sees 8,000 Covid cases a day

The country could have 8,000 coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases a day by the end of March if the present surge of infections continues, an expert warned on Sunday.

OCTA Research Fellow David Guido made the projection on Sunday, saying the reproduction rate (R0) of 1.9 was higher than OCTA’s forecast of 1.6.

“ the end of March, we could have 8,000 or more cases per day in the whole Philippines,” Guido said in Filipino in a TV interview.

The R0 indicates how infectious a disease is. A R0 of 1 means that one Covid-infected person can pass on the virus to one other person. An R0 of 1.9 means that each carrier can infect more than one person.

Business as usual Shoppers fill a market in Marikina City on March 14, 2021 amid warnings that the country could be having its second wave of Covid infection as cases continue to surge. Photo by RUY L. MARTINEZ

If the reproduction number holds steady, there could be 18,000 to 20,000 Covid cases daily by mid-April, Guido said.

Metro Manila alone is expected to have 5,000 to 6,000 cases a day by the end of March. The region, home to a tenth of the country’s population, is also projected to have 14,000 daily cases by mid-April.

To help curb the rise, the mayors of Metro Manila have agreed on a two-week “unified curfew” beginning today, March 15.

Exactly a year ago, an enhanced community quarantine was enforced in the metropolis, the first and most stringent lockdown ever declared.

“Our [previous] projections [already] came true. The increase was faster than our original projection so we re-adjusted our projections, there is no hocus pocus here,” Guido said.

“We don’t want to cause panic, we are just saying what the science told us, with no fear-mongering,” he added.

For the University of the Philippines Pandemic Response Team, the spike could be the “second wave” health authorities have been dreading.

“This could be considered as a second wave because in terms of the peak, it goes in an upward direction,” Dr. Jomar Rabajante, a member of the team said in Filipino in another TV interview Sunday.

Rabajante noted that the peak of the first wave hit around August last year. The number of cases had been dropping, until it spiked again this year.

On August 10 last year, the country recorded 6,958 cases, the highest single-day jump so far.

Last Saturday’s 5,000 cases was the highest single-day increase so far for 2021 and the highest in almost seven months.

On Sunday, 4,899 new cases were recorded, bringing the total caseload to 621,498. Recoveries were at 560,512 and deaths at 12,829.

Last week, the World Health Organization country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe doubted if the recent spike could be considered as the second wave.

He said the present surge must be preceded by “a complete flattening of the curve” to fit the definition of a second wave.

He said the recent surge is just “another spike in the ongoing wave.”

Rabajante noted that the situation this time was different from the previous surge, because the country’s health care system was better prepared to handle the increase in cases.

“In terms of health care, we are a bit prepared. But we are still lacking in contact tracing which the government itself admitted,” he said.

Infectious disease expert Edsel Salvana agreed with Rabajante that the country’s health care system was improving.

“This isn’t exactly like last year when we were running scared, we were running out of PPE (personal protective equipment), and people were dying left and right,” Salvana said in a Facebook post.

Another plus factor is that the country has begun vaccinating health care workers, he added.

“I’m vaccinated but it’s just the first dose and it’s been only two weeks,” Salvana said. “There may already be some partial protection but I’m still gearing up the same as before I was vaccinated.”

To avoid overwhelming the country’s health care facilities, Salvana reminded the public to strictly observe the usual precautionary measures of wearing face masks and face shields and physical distancing.

“There is hope and we do know that all pandemics end,” he said. “We just have to hold on for a bit longer.”