COVID-19 growth rate in NCR on steady decline, says OCTA

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Metro Manila's COVID-19 case growth rate is steadily declining, OCTA Research fellow Guido David reported on Saturday. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 15) — Metro Manila's COVID-19 case growth rate is steadily declining, OCTA Research fellow Guido David reported on Saturday.

The rate dropped to 3% from 5% on Friday based on its seven-day moving average.

"Once the daily growth rate becomes negative, new cases in (the National Capital Region) are decreasing," explained David in his report.

The region's reproduction number, or the number of people infected by a single case, also decreased to 3.22 as of Jan. 11, he added.

According to U.S. nonprofit Covid Act Now, the reproduction number should be below 0.9 to indicate that cases are decreasing. On the other hand, a rate of above 1.4 means infections are increasing exponentially.

"While the decrease in growth rate is strong evidence that the trend in the NCR appears to be peaking, it is subject to data backlog and late reports," David said.

But if the trend is solid, cases could further drop between 16,000 and 18,000 on Jan. 15 and 15,000 and 16,000 on Jan. 16, he added.

On Jan. 14, Metro Manila recorded 17,081 new cases and a seven-day average of 17,076. 

David also cautioned that the new testing rules could manipulate the numbers. When asked if limiting tests to only three priority groups would result to inaccurate data, David agreed.

"We will likely see a steep artificial decline," he said.

Case doubling time, or the duration for the doubling of infections, also slowed down from 2.2 to 4 days, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

However, she reiterated "the peak and the projection state cases may continue to rise until the end of the month."

Vergeire also gave assurances that "we are still seeing the true picture" in the number of COVID-19 infections in the Philippines.

OCTA earlier warned the country may lose sight of the real situation amid high cases and low testing output.

"We are still guided by the numbers we are getting from our laboratories, [....] although meron po talagang iilang porsyento ng mga nagkakasakit na hindi na natin naitatala dahil they opt not to have their tests anymore and just isolate. 'Yung iba naman, meron hong delays sa turnaround time ng ating laboratories," Vergeire said.

[Translation: We are still guided by the numbers we are getting from our laboratories, although there are some patients who may not be included in our figures because they opt not to have their tests anymore and just isolate. Others may not be reported yet due to delays in turnaround time in our laboratories.]

"But we don't just look at the specific numbers per day. Tinitingnan ho natin 'yung trends ng mga kaso para guided pa rin tayo kung ano ang interventions na gagawin natin [We also look at trends, so we can still be guided in our interventions]," she added.

The Department of Health on Tuesday announced a policy shift amid the surge of new cases.

It said it wants to prioritize the vulnerable population in testing, which includes healthcare workers (A1), senior citizens (A2) and persons with comorbidities (A3).

CNN Philippines' Currie Cator contributed to this report.