‘Serious’ Covid surge sweeps Metro Manila

Metro Manila is in the middle of a “serious surge” in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases, according to the group tracking the pandemic situation in the country.

The number of cases in what is officially designated as the National Capital Region (NCR) jumped by 78 percent from the previous week, OCTA Research noted in its March 17 report.

Isolation center An ambulance waits at the entrance to a newly opened quarantine building in Quezon City on March 18, 2021. The Quezon City General Hospital, Rosario Maclang Bautista General Hospital and Novaliches District Hospital have hit their full capacity. Photo by Ruy L. Martinez

OCTA ticked off the alarming figures even as the Department of Health (DoH) reported 5,290 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, ramping up the total to 640,984 cases in the country.

The virus’ positivity rate remained at a high 14.1 percent, with 5,635 positive samples out of nearly 40,000 samples tested by all but eight Covid-19 laboratories in the country.
Active cases totaled 66,567.

Recoveries were at 561,530, while the death toll was at 12,887.

OCTA reported 2,231 new cases in the NCR, Metro Manila’s official designation, as of March 16.

It said the virus’ reproduction number or R0 was 1.96, the highest since May 2020.
During the previous week, the region only averaged 1,546 new cases a day.

The group said the daily attack rate in Metro Manila was at 15.9 per 100,000 population, high enough for the region to be classified as a high-risk area.

Quezon City still led in daily new cases at 443, with a 93-percent rise in new cases per week.

The cities of Manila, Pasay, Makati, Pasig, Taguig, Caloocan and Parañaque, along with Cebu City, posted three-digit average daily new cases.

Hospital occupancy in Quezon City, Makati and Muntinlupa had soared past the 70 percent critical capacity. Quezon City was at 76 percent, Makati at 91 percent and Muntinlupa at 79 percent.

Case figures dropped in the cities of Pasay, Malabon and Navotas, mainly because of localized lockdowns.

The reproduction number in Pasay and Navotas also dropped from 2.4 to 1.8.

On a more optimistic note, OCTA said “reduced mobility, curfews, stricter implementation of health protocols and city ordinances” can help lower the reproduction number in Metro Manila to more manageable levels.

The number of new cases could fall to 4,000 cases per day in a “more optimistic scenario,” it said.

“It is also possible that the combined efforts of the local governments and the citizens will further reduce the transmission rate and lower the reproduction number in NCR. If this happens, we will hopefully see fewer Covid-19 daily cases in the NCR,” the group said.

Cases also rose in areas in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region bordering the metropolis, such as Bacoor City, Imus City and Dasmariñas City in Cavite, and Antipolo City and Cainta in Rizal.

Cainta’s hospitals were already at 82-percent capacity, way above the 70-percent critical threshold.

Elsewhere in Luzon, Santiago City in Isabela saw a staggering 24,300 percent rise in new cases, from a single reported case from March 3-9 to 244 new cases on March 10 to 16.

The city’s hospitals were at 84-percent capacity and the daily attack rate was 25.4 per 100,000 population.

In Central Visayas, Cebu City’s case numbers plateaued to 2 percent, while the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu had case numbers down to an average of 18 percent.

As the Covid-19 caseload swells, the Department of Transportation urged the public to continue following the “seven commandments of public transport” and to report violators.
Public transport operators were asked to strictly enforce the one-seat apart rule and the continuous disinfection of their units.

“Maging responsable at disiplinado po tayo lalo na kung tayo ay nasa terminal, stations at kung anu mang pampublikong transportasyon…. Lahat po tayo maging disiplinado at responsable (We should be responsible and disciplined especially when we are in terminals, stations and other public transport areas…. We should be all be disciplined and responsible,” Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran said during a forum organized by the DoH.

Assistant Secretary for Roads Mark Steven Pastor said that while 80 percent of the routes in Metro Manila have been opened so far, more routes are being rationalized to prevent viral transmission through prolonged passenger contact.