Daily virus tally could fall to 500 by mid-November

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By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

DAILY coronavirus infections in Manila, the capital and nearby cities would probably fall to 500 by mid-November, according to researchers from the country’s premier university.

“By Nov. 15, the National Capital Region could be at 500 cases per day, which is around the level last December,” Fredegusto P. David, a fellow from the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines, said in a Facebook Messenger chat on Sunday.

Metro Manila is now under Alert Level 3, which allows 50% capacity for outdoor services and 30% capacity for indoor activities.

Mr. David said Metro Manila would probably be placed under Alert Level 2 before the holiday season. “We support a move to Alert Level 2. COVID-19 indicators are already low.”

“We will see if cases continue to decline,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said when asked if the lockdown in the capital region would be eased by December. “We use case trends such as the two-week growth rate and average daily attack rate, and healthcare utilization rate,” she said in a Viber message.

Mr. David said Metro Manila had a coronavirus infection rate of 5%, while its healthcare use rate was below 50%.

The virus reproduction rate in the region was below 0.9, lower than the critical cut-off of 1.4, Mr. David said. The average daily attack rate or the number of infected people for 100,000 people was below seven, he added.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 3,410 coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 2.8 million.

The death toll rose to 43,172 after 128 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 5,825 to 2.7 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 45,233 active cases, 73.6% of which were mild, 4.9% did not show symptoms, 6.8% were severe, 11.83% were moderate and 2.9% were critical.

DoH said 30 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 25 of which were reclassified as recoveries, while 91 recoveries were relisted as deaths. Four laboratories failed to submit data on Oct. 29.

The agency said 46% of intensive care units in the Philippines were occupied, while the rate in Metro Manila was 39%.

OCTA earlier said Metro Manila posted only 953 infections per day from Oct. 20 to 26.

Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” A. Conception III has been urging the government to place the region under Alert Level 2 to boost business recovery.

Under Alert Level 2, businesses may operate indoors at 50% capacity. They will get an additional 10% capacity if they have a so-called safety seal from the government. For outdoor operations, they may operate at 70% capacity.

“The public should continue to follow public health guidelines and avoid large gatherings for now,” Mr. David said. “Local government units should continue their good efforts in implementing granular lockdowns.”

Health authorities should enforce the alert level guidelines strictly, he added.

The presidential palace on Friday said Metro Manila would remain under Alert Level 3 until Nov. 14.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. also said an inter-agency task force had approved a plan to increase passenger capacity in road- and rail-based public transportation in Metro Manila and nearby provinces from 70% to full capacity starting Nov. 4.

The government started enforcing granular lockdowns with five alert levels in the capital region after the country struggled to contain a fresh spike in infections triggered by a highly contagious Delta variant.

The Department of Transportation on Friday said it would gradually increase the passenger capacity of public transportation in Metro Manila starting this week.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Mark Steven C. Pastor said this, along with the P1-billion cash aid from the government, would help public utility vehicle drivers.

The agency cited greater demand for public transport after businesses were allowed to operate at increased capacity and as more Filipinos get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

It said it would issue guidelines on the gradual increase in passenger capacity while enforcing health and safety protocols to help contain the coronavirus.