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OCTA Research sees decreasing trend in COVID-19 cases in 'NCR Plus' bubble

OCTA Research is projecting a downtrend in the number of coronavirus cases in Metro Manila and its adjacent provinces, four weeks after the areas were placed in a “National Capital Region (NCR) Plus" bubble.

In its projections for the "NCR Plus" general community quarantine (GCQ) bubble released Wednesday, OCTA Research said that if the current reproduction number 2.0 will decrease to 1.5 within the two-week period from March 22 to April 4, “the trend will become downward in four weeks, and the number of new cases per day in the NCR will peak at 6,200.”

Under the "NCR Plus" bubble policy, residents of Metro Manila and adjacent provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna are prevented from going outside the NCR Plus border unless it was an essential trip, including going to the workplace.

The "NCR Plus bubble" restriction also prevents people outside the bubble from entering the area unless it was an essential trip.

Police later clarified that residents of the said areas will not be restricted from traveling within the “bubble.” 

“In a more optimistic scenario, the reproduction number will decrease to less than 1.0 after two weeks and the trend will reverse,” OCTA Research said.

“The number of new cases under the more optimistic scenario could reach 5,000 per day in the NCR,” it said.

The research group noted that the Philippines has been recording 7,000 new COVID-19 cases on each day from March 20 to 22, which surpassed the previous high of 6,900 cases on August 10, 2020.

It said that the reproduction number in Metro Manila was at 1.99 as of March 23, 2021.

Meanwhile, the number of new cases in the NCR average more than 3,600 per day over the past week, an increase of 62% versus the prior week.

OCTA Research also noted an increase in new daily cases in Calabarzon and Central Luzon.

In particular, Batangas and Pampanga need to be closely monitored, the group said, since their weekly percentage increases in new cases were higher than those in the NCR Plus bubble.

Batangas registered 150 new cases in March 17 to 23, a 141% increase from the 62 new cases recorded from March 10 to 16.

Pampanga meanwhile registered an 86% increase in new cases, from 65 from March 10 to 16, to 121 from March 17 to 23.

The daily attack rate in the NCR also increased to 25.9 per 100,000, putting the area in the high risk classification, according to OCTA Research.

In comparison, before the imposition of modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) on July 28 to August 3, the daily attack rate was 12.8 per 100,000, it said.

“With stricter measures imposed by the national government, there is hope that the pandemic may start to slow down,” the research group said.

OCTA Research, however, noted that while the optimistic scenario is not impossible, it is “mathematically unlikely,” considering the country’s pandemic history.

“Nevertheless, the changes in the trend and the decrease in reproduction number will now depend largely on the cooperation of civil society,” it said.

The Philippines’ tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 677,653 on Tuesday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 5,867 new infections.

Of this number, 86,200 are active; 578,461 recovered; and 12,992 died.

Meanwhile, 28 hospitals across Metro Manila no longer have available intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients as of March 21, DOH data showed. —KG, GMA News