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OCTA says cases may decline to 1k a day by Valentine's Day, but DOH remains cautious

By NICK GARCIA Published Jan 21, 2022 7:51 pm

As the surge in daily COVID-19 infections has been seemingly reined in for the past few days, the OCTA research group said that Metro Manila might see new daily cases drop to 1,000 by Valentine's Day, though the Department of Health (DOH) remains cautious in acknowledging any perceived downtrend.

"Atin naman pong sinasabi na oo, bumabagal ang pagtaas ng mga kaso (sa Metro Manila). May nakikita tayong nagpa-plateau," DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a Malacañang public briefing. "But we do not look only at the number of cases kapag tayo nag-aanalisa."

OCTA Research fellow Guido David earlier tweeted that "based on current patterns," Metro Manila might see less than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily by Feb. 14 and less than 500 by the end of February.

David said the capital's cases might also decrease to around 2,000 to 3,000 by the end of January.

In an interview with CNN, he noted that there were about 9,400 new COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila last Jan. 20, a 50% decline from the previous week's tally of 18,000.

He, however, emphasized that at the end of the day, the numbers are "just projections."

"We hope these will come to fruition," David said.

Vergeire said actual numbers on the ground may be more or less different due to certain limitations, especially during the Omicron-driven surge in the capital, where there's already community transmission of the variant. She cited individuals who opt for antigen tests and those who just undergo home quarantine.

"Kaya nag-iingat po kami sa pagdedeklara ng pagbaba ng kaso," she said. "Gusto nating pag-aralan muna nating mas maigi, makita na bumababa ang trends."

"Ang bottomline, let's not get complacent," Vergeire said, adding that everybody must consistently and strictly observe health protocols whether cases are declining or not.

The DOH COVID-19 tracker showed that as of Jan. 20, Metro Manila's active cases are at over 109,000. The capital also accounts for 1.1 million of the national caseload, which is above 3.3 million.

In its Jan. 21 COVID-19 bulletin, the DOH reported 32,744 new daily infections. The country saw its highest-ever new daily infections on Jan. 15, when the agency had reported 39,004 cases.

Though Jan. 21's figures saw a record-high 291,618 total active cases nationwide, exceeding last Jan. 17's tally of 290,938.

Increase COVID-19 beds, improve masking routine

In the same palace briefing, Vergeire also urged local governments to gear up for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases, as the national government has elevated Kalinga, Ifugao, Mountain Province and Northern Samar to Alert Level 4 starting Jan. 21 until the end of the month.

She said public hospitals must increase their COVID-19 bed capacity to 50%, while private facilities must allocate at least 30% of beds to COVID patients.

"Kailangan na rin po mag-stockpile ng kinakailangang gamot para sa pag-manage ng ating COVID-19 cases," Vergeire said.

She also asked LGUs to improve their PDITR (Prevent, Detect, Isolation, Treat, Reintegration) efforts and ramp up COVID-19 vaccination.

The DOH spokesperson also urged the public to dispose their surgical masks after use and replace them after every six hours. Cloth masks should be washed after every use, while N95 masks should be replaced once teared, loose, or gotten wet, she added.

"Hindi po sapat ang pagsusuot ng tamang mask," Vergeire said.

Under Alert Level 4, only up to 10% indoor capacity indoors for fully vaccinated individuals and 30% outdoors will be allowed.

Metro Manila will stay under Alert Level 3 until the end of the month, during which several establishments may accept fully vaccinated adults indoors at 30% capacity. Outdoor settings may cater to anybody at half capacity.

Bed occupancy rates

As of Jan. 19, the DOH's Jan. 21 report showed about 49% of 1,100 intensive care unit beds, 48% of 4,800 isolation beds, and 56% of 4,400 ward beds in Metro Manila have been occupied, for an average bed occupancy rate of 51%.

It's an improvement of last Jan. 12's numbers in the Jan. 14 report, in which 55% of 1,100 intensive care unit beds, 55% of 4,800 isolation beds, and 67% of 4,400 ward beds have been occupied, for an average bed occupancy rate of 59%.

In the same period, on a nationwide level, about 51% of 3,400 intensive care unit beds, 52% of 20,300 isolation beds, and 54% of 13,400 ward beds are being used. The average bed occupancy rate is at 52%.

It's a slight increase from the previous week's average national bed occupancy rate of 49%, when about 48% of 3,400 intensive care unit beds, 48% of 20,300 isolation beds, and 51% of 13,400 ward beds have been taken.

Based on DOH standards, healthcare systems are classified as within the "safe" zone if bed occupancy rates are below 60%.

They're classified as "high risk," however, if bed occupancy rates surpass 70%. When this happens, the national government said Alert Level 4 may be implemented.