OCTA elated at 'very fast' decrease in COVID cases in NCR

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 13) — COVID-19 watchdog OCTA Research Group has seen a "very fast" decline in cases in Metro Manila, citing it as a good indication that restrictions could be further eased in the second half of the month.

"The decrease is very fast. It is decreasing by 30% every week. A decent decrease would be 20%," OCTA Research Fellow Guido David told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

David said the National Capital Region (NCR) reached an average of 1,933 daily cases from Oct. 5 to 11, the lowest seven-day average since July 31-Aug. 6, the week before the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented.

"We have reversed the number of cases to the week before we started ECQ and that's good news," he noted.

He also said the reproduction number in the NCR is also now down to 0.62, which means an existing infection would now cause less than one new transmission due to the downtrend in cases.

"I think the level of vaccination is helping it decrease very, very quickly compared to let’s say (during the) March and April surge when we had the Alpha Beta variants, we didn't have a significant level of vaccinations yet then so the decrease was slower," he said.

David also attributed the decline to the high compliance of Filipinos with health protocols such as wearing of face masks and observing social distancing. He also said the upcoming vaccination of children and the general public would further improve the numbers.

Based on its risk classification, Metro Manila is under moderate risk and on Alert Level 4 under the government's quarantine scheme until Oct. 15. But David said a lower alert level is now possible based on OCTA's latest observation.

RELATED: OCTA sees Metro Manila under low-risk by November 

"First week of October it was already possible, in our opinion, for a relaxation to Alert Level 3. Even Alert Level 2 is possible right now," David added.

He also called on the government to "definitely consider" administering booster shots now to protect the priority population who previously received Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines which are reported to have waning efficacy.

OCTA is optimistic that the COVID-19 situation will further improve for the rest of the year and the country could further ease restrictions to boost its economy.

"Overall we think it is going to be a good Christmas for us. I am very optimistic. It's not just the light at the end of the tunnel. But we are seeing the end game," he said.

So far, the country has received more than 87 million COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers. The government has also administered over 50 million doses, with 23 million fully-vaccinated as of Oct. 12. It aims to reach herd immunity by inoculating 77 million eligible people by year-end.