Experts flag surge in COVID-19 cases in Davao City and Baguio

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) — Experts from OCTA Research Team have labeled Davao City and Baguio City as "hotspots of serious concern," while the COVID-19 situation in Metro Manila continues to improve.

In its report issued on Tuesday, OCTA said these two cities saw spikes in COVID-19 cases from November 8 to 14, adding its hospital occupancy has breached the critical level.

Davao City recorded 104 new coronavirus cases within the six-day period. It had 84% occupancy of COVID-19 hospital beds as of November 15, exceeding the 70% critical threshold established by the Department of Health.

Meanwhile, hospital occupancy in Baguio City is at 81%. OCTA flagged that the city's attack rate or number of new cases per day relative to the population is now at 11.2% after 44 new infections were recorded during November 8 to 14.

The research team said the increases in COVID-19 cases in these areas are "significant." It warned that if the surge is not contained immediately, it may overwhelm healthcare services and medical frontliners in the coming weeks.

Improvements in Metro Manila

The researchers said Metro Manila's positivity rate improved to 4% on November 9 to 15, from the previous 5% on November 2 to 8.

Metro Manila's positivity rate, which measures how many people tested positive for COVID-19 in the tests conducted, already met the recommendation of the World Health Organization, OCTA said.

WHO previously said that no more than 5% of test samples should be positive for at least two weeks prior to lifting restrictions.

"For countries which are considering lifting public health and social measures (e.g. lockdowns), our guidance lays out indicative testing criteria; generally, no more than 5% of samples should be positive, at least for the last 2 weeks, assuming that surveillance for suspected cases is comprehensive," a WHO spokesperson told CNN Philippines.

Despite the milestone, the National Capital Region remains to be the COVID-19 epicenter in the country.

Safety in evacuation centers

OCTA also urged the national and local governments to improve the current evacuation strategies to prevent viral transmissions in shelters as more storms are expected to enter the country this year. It said officials must ensure adherence to minimum health standards, provide adequate and accessible testing, and effective contact tracing.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque claimed the government is already carrying out COVID-19 antigen testing in all evacuation centers. But he said there is no assurance all evacuees will be tested.

"Bago pa imungkahi ng OCTA research group, ina-assure ko po kayo na in place na ang polisiya ng gobyerno na magbigay ng COVID testing sa mga evacuation centers," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: Even before OCTA's suggestion, I assure you that the policy to conduct COVID-19 testing in evacuation centers is already in place.]

After the onslaught of Typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there is a "very strong possibility" of transmission of COVID-19 in evacuation centers. Last week. he urged safety officers assigned in evacuation centers to ensure that evacuees strictly observe minimum health standards to avoid the spread of the virus in close quarters.