OCTA: COVID case surge seen in northern provinces; trend in some areas similar to countries with new variant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22)— A spike in coronavirus cases has been observed in several provinces outside Metro Manila, including those along the northern regions, according to independent research group OCTA.

In its January 22 report, the OCTA group said the provinces of Cebu, Benguet, Leyte, Zamboanga Del Sur, Mountain Province, Cagayan, and Kalinga all listed a post-holiday surge, recording an increase of more than 30% in new virus cases compared to the previous week.

OCTA Research fellow Professor Guido David particularly raised concern over the situation in the northern provinces, saying the pattern of increase in some areas is somewhat similar to those of countries that have reported cases of the new coronavirus variant.

“We’re not saying that the variant is there, but we’re just saying that the patterns of increase are similar,” David told CNN Philippines’ The Source. “And this is especially true in the northern provinces like Cagayan.”

“We must note that the Filipina who was identified with the variant in Hong Kong came from Cagayan. Although we know they have done sequencing in Cagayan, and found no evidence of the variant, but still, the case increases there are somewhat concerning,” he added.

According to David, OCTA has monitored a 20% positivity rate in the Cordillera Administrative Region — much higher than the 5% standard recommended by the World Health Organization. Cagayan Valley, on the other hand, has reported around 15% and up positivity rate, he added.

The OCTA fellow also underscored the importance of scaling up the COVID-19 testing in the said areas, noting it’s possible that cases may have been underestimated.

“We need to scale up the testing there, because we need to identify if there are more cases there than what we’re seeing,” David said.

Meanwhile, OCTA’s latest report also noted that while Cebu and Zamboanga del Sur saw a spike in cases, the areas reported low attack rates and positivity rates.

The increase in coronavirus infections in Metro Manila has also “leveled off,” OCTA added, but stressed anew the importance of compliance with the minimum health protocols.