Baguio City and Davao City have been identified as “hotspots of serious concern” due to a significant surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, a group of experts studying the outbreak in the country said.
In the latest monitoring report of the OCTA Research Team, Davao City topped the list of local government units with the most number of new cases per day in the past two weeks.
Data shared by the group said the average daily new cases in Davao City from Nov. 1 to 7 were 113. It slightly decreased but still high at 104 from Nov. 8 to 14.
The city also has an alarming hospital occupancy rate which was 84 percent as of Nov. 15, way above the critical threshold of 70 percent established by the Department of Health.
Baguio City has a high attack rate, as well as hospital occupancy in the past two weeks which was at 11.2 percent and 81 percent, respectively, according to OCTA.
The attack rate, OCTA explained, is the number of new cases per day relative to the population. For example, a daily attack rate of five percent per 1,000 means that there are five new cases per 100,000 of the population.
A higher attack rate means more people are getting infected, it explained.
“We are concerned that if the surge is not contained, these LGUs may experience high hospital burden in the coming weeks that may stress their health care systems and overwhelm their medical front-liners,” OCTA said.
The two cities were among the nine LGUs marked by OCTA Research as “high-risk” areas for COVID-19 infections due to high daily caseload and attack rate and alarming hospital occupancy in their communities in the past weeks.
These high-risk areas are Makati City, Baguio City, La Trinidad, and Itogon in Benguet; Batangas City; Lucena City and Lopez, Quezon; and Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur.
“We are concerned that these LGUs may experience high hospital burden in the coming weeks that may stress their health care systems and overwhelm their medical frontliners,” OCTA said.
To reverse the increase in transmission in their communities, the research team urged the identified high-risk LGUs to further intensify their efforts at testing, tracing, and isolation.
The implementation of more aggressive and effective localized lockdowns with stricter border controls is also urgently needed to suppress further viral transmissions in the high-risk LGUs, the group said.
OCTA noted the continued decline in the positivity rate in the National Capital Region, or the share of tests that come back positive, is now at four percent, down from the previous five percent recommended by the World Health Organization.
However, the team noted that Metro Manila remains to be the current epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The reproduction number in Metro Manila, as well as in the whole country, also decreased to 0.81 from 0.87 and to 0.71 from 0.82, respectively, both still below one meaning that local transmissions are being controlled.
To sustain these positive trends, OCTA called on the national and local governments to work together to limit the spread of new cases through increasing testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine, and the implementation of small, targeted lockdowns to contain “super-spreading events” in LGUs.
Citizens must also continue to be vigilant and disciplined in following the minimum health standards set by the DOH, it added.
“We urge the national and the local governments to strictly monitor and enforce compliance with minimum health standards such as physical distancing, the wearing of face mask and face shields, and proper hygiene to reverse the increase in transmissions at the community level,” the team said.
As more typhoons are expected to hit the country in the coming weeks, the group pushed local officials to improve their current evacuation strategies and plans to prevent further transmissions by ensuring that minimum health standards are followed in evacuation centers apart from the provision of adequate and accessible testing, effective contact tracing, and supportive isolation facilities to families stranded in these facilities.
The OCTA team is an independent and interdisciplinary research group that has been studying the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines. It is composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni with contributors from the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College, USA.