OCTA suggests calibrated easing of restrictions in NCR to maintain downward trend in COVID cases

Marje Pelayo   •   May 10, 2021   •   116

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reproduction rate in the National Capital Region has gone down since the region was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), according to the OCTA Research Team.

However, UP Professor and OCTA Research Fellow Dr. Ranjit Rye said the region’s daily attack rate, positivity rate, and ICU occupancy in hospitals remain high.

“Generally speaking, the trend is downward for the whole region and NCR Plus. This is good for all of us. But we have also noted the daily attack rate is still high in many cities in the NCR,” the OCTA Research Group Fellow said.

“Second, the positivity rate is still high at 14 percent. And we’re hoping that in the next few days it will further improve. The third thing we need to look into, as Dr. Butch has also mentioned, is the fact that the ICU occupancy is still quite high,” he added.

Dr. Rye said the team understands why the government needs to extend stricter quarantine restrictions given the current situation.

“We can understand if the government will have discussions on extending the MECQ, really because we need some more time to heal. We also need some more time for government interventions, such as contact tracing and expansion of hospital capacity, apart from testing,” he said.

He said the trends right now are good although the NCR is “not yet where we are supposed to be as far as managing the crisis in the particular region is concerned.”

But they noted that the MECQ that the region is right now is not that which was implemented in August of last year in terms of mobility.

“If you look at the mobility numbers, we are actually much more comparable to a GCQ,” said UST Professor Nicanor Austriaco.

Austriaco added that while they understand the government’s move to open the economy, “we want to sustain the good trends that we have so far.”

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to announce the new quarantine classification soon and the team wants it done with caution.

“We will support whatever the government decides. What we’re suggesting is caution. What we’re suggesting is a calibrated slow exit strategy so that we can sustain the trends,” Dr. Rye noted.

One area of caution, he said, is to prevent the entry of the new and more contagious variant from India.

He said the group is awaiting the result of the [genome] sequencing done on the five COVID-19 positive individuals who entered the Philippines from India.

Rye added that another consideration is the rollout of improvement in COVID-response, such as infrastructure, training of contact tracing, and expansion of hospital facilities.

The OCTA research team reported improvements in hospital occupancy in Metro Manila even as the daily attack rate continues to drop.

“We will expect similarly, with about 2 or 3-week delay, a drop in cases,” Prof. Austriaco said.

Meanwhile, taking note of the data from Israel, the U.K., and the U.S., the team said it will help if, at least, 45 to 50% of the population will be vaccinated to see the effect of the government’s vaccination program on the number of COVID-19 cases.

“Which means here in NCR, we have to vaccinate about six million people of our 12 million people here before we see a substantial effect on the number of cases,” Austriaco added hoping that the government’s vaccine strategy and vaccine campaign will be realized before the end of the year.

As of May 9, there are 1,101,990 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. Of this number, a total of 1,022,224 have recovered while 18,472 succumbed to the disease.

DFA logs two new COVID cases among overseas Filipinos

Marje Pelayo   •   June 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported two new COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad.

Likewise, three overseas Filipino workers (OFW) recovered from the infection and no new fatalities were recorded.

Overall, DFA logged a total of 20,424 cases of COVID-19 among Filipinos from different parts of the world.

Of this number, 7,108 are currently undergoing treatment.

Also, 12,096 recovered and a total of 1,220 succumbed to the disease in all 94 countries and territories around the globe.

6,833 new COVID-19 cases push PH’s active tally to 61,776

Robie de Guzman   •   June 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Friday recorded 6,833 new cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), bringing the total tally to 1,346,276.

In its latest bulletin, the Department of Health (DOH) said the number of new infections drove the country’s tally of active cases to 61,776.

Of this figure, 92.2 percent are mild, 3.7 percent are asymptomatic, 1.22 percent are moderate, 1.7 percent are severe, and 1.2 percent are in critical condition.

The DOH noted in its bulletin that five accredited testing laboratories failed to submit data on time.

Total recoveries rose to 1,261,115 after 3,441 more patients recuperated from the viral disease.

The death toll climbed to 23,385 with 110 new fatalities.

Data from the DOH also showed that 59 percent of the country’s ICU beds are occupied and 37 percent of ventilators are being used.

In the National Capital Region, 46 percent of the ICU beds are occupied while 32 percent of the ventilators are in use.

The DOH also reported the positivity rate of 12.6 percent out of 43,635 tests reported last June 16.

DOT clarifies tourists of all ages from NCR Plus can still travel to Boracay until June 30

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) has clarified that tourists of all ages in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus are free to travel to Boracay and other tourist destinations under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) until June 30.

In a statement, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat made the clarification following reports that some tourism stakeholders may not be aware that restrictions had been relaxed, even for seniors and young travelers, since June 1. She said this would further help tourism workers to return to their jobs.

“This extended liberal movement of people will allow the DOT and local government units to revive the jobs of displaced tourism workers,” Puyat said.

The NCR Plus still remains under general community quarantine (GCQ) with varying degrees of restrictions. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) also extended its resolution to allow the movement of persons traveling in and out of NCR Plus until June 30.

The DOT said that, based on IATF Resolution 121, interzonal travel will be allowed in areas under GCQ and MGCQ for leisure purposes. However, tourists coming from Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal may only undertake point-to-point travel to GCQ and MGCQ areas

Meanwhile, Puyat urged tourism enterprises to abide by the guidelines of the IATF. This includes implementing 30% to 50% limited capacity in museums and outdoor tourist attractions.

Essential meetings and other social events such as weddings, birthday celebrations, are allowed in GCQ areas at up to 50% capacity, except for NCR and Bulacan. Essential meetings in the NCR and Bulacan will only have 30% capacity while social events will be at 10% capacity.

“The amended guidelines from the Task Force also comes with the responsibility to strictly adhere to the minimum health and safety protocols when traveling,” Puyat said. AAC 

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