NCR logs record daily infections under lockdown

RESIDENTS of Caloocan line up for their vaccine at A. Bonifacio Elementary School on Aug. 6. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

METRO Manila hit record daily coronavirus infections at the weekend while under a strict lockdown according to researchers from the county’s premier university.

The OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines on Sunday said 2,823 people got infected on Saturday, the highest since May 2, when it was also under an enhanced community quarantine amid a fresh surge in cases.

The virus reproduction rate in Manila the capital and nearby cities increased to 1.8 from 1.56 a week ago, it said in a report.

“The strong upward trend and level of new cases resemble the situation in March 9 to 15, two weeks before the National Capital Region (NCR) was placed under an enhanced community quarantine,” OCTA said.

The rapid growth rate strongly suggests that the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant was now the dominant strain in the region, it said.

The researchers said 31% of the Health department’s sampled cases had the Delta variant, higher than 16% two weeks ago.

The intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy rate in the region was still safe at 59% though it increased by an average of 11 a day in the past two weeks, OCTA said.

The hospital bed occupancy in the region was also safe at 53% though it increased by 94 a day in the past two weeks.

“With the current trends, ICU occupancy will be above 70% in two weeks,” OCTA said. “Hospital bed occupancy will be above 70% in three weeks.”

OCTA said the virus positivity rate in Metro Manila had increased to 14% from 10% a week ago.

If the decision to place Metro Manila under a strict lockdown had been delayed to Aug. 15, the region would have breached 4,500 new cases daily, “which would likely extend the lockdown and cause more negative impact on people and the economy,” OCTA said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte placed Metro Manila under a strict lockdown for two weeks starting Aug. 6 after OCTA said the Delta variant from India might be freely roaming in communities.

Coronavirus infections in Metro Manila would continue to increase even if authorities extend the two-week lockdown in the region, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said on Saturday.

Active coronavirus cases in Metro Manila were expected to reach tens of thousands, Ms. Vergeire said.

The Health department on Friday said Delta cases had been detected in all 17 cities and one municipality in the capital region. It said 119 more people had been infected with the Delta variant, bringing the total to 450.

The Health department reported 9,671 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 1.65 million.

The death toll rose to 29,122 after 287 after more patients died, while recoveries increased by 8,079 to 1.56 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 77,516 active cases, 93.2% of which were mild, 2.8% did not show symptoms, 1.7% were severe, 1.20% were moderate and 1% were critical.

The agency said 96 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 92 of which were recoveries. Three recoveries were reclassified as active cases, while 149 recoveries were reclassified as deaths.

The presidential palace on Saturday said Bataan province would be under an enhanced lockdown from Aug. 8 to 22 to contain rising infections. The northern Philippine province was earlier placed under a modified enhanced quarantine until Aug 15.

On Thursday, Mr. Duterte put Iloilo City, Laguna and Cagayan De Oro under an enhanced community quarantine.

OCTA researchers earlier traced the fresh infection surge to the Delta variant, which was also spreading rapidly in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

The Philippines on Saturday posted more than 10,000 infections for the second straight day and more than 100 deaths for the third day in a row.