OCTA warns of COVID-19 resurgence if Delta variant spreads in NCR

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 18) — The Philippines could face a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, with a daily tally likely matching the peak seen in March and April, once the Delta variant spreads in the country’s busiest metropolitan area, an independent COVID-19 research group said on Sunday.

“The surge could be comparable to the March surge pero [but] we think that the level of vaccination will help mitigate the surge,” OCTA Research fellow Guido David said in an online briefing. “There is no surge yet. We’re projecting that if the Delta variant is able to come in the region, the surge that we might see could be comparable to the March surge.”

Data from the Department of Health’s COVID-19 tracker showed the number of new infections first breached the 10,000 level on March 29, before peaking to as much as 15,310 daily cases on April 2 — but with over 3,700 positive test results from backlogs. The Alpha and Beta variants were seen as the drivers of the surge, which led to stricter lockdowns and overwhelmed hospitals in the capital region and nearby provinces.

OCTA’s David said their forecast factors in the “worst-case scenario." He said that if the vaccination program gathers momentum, the daily infections could not be as grim. The efficacy of all COVID-19 vaccines remains high “even against the Delta variant,” he said.

“Makakatulong sila against severe infection of the coronavirus. Pero pwede tayong maging carrier. Kailangang proteksyunan ‘yung di pa vaccinated so dapat sumunod sa health protocols,” Guido pointed out.

[Translation: “The vaccines will help protect against severe infection of the coronavirus. But we can be carriers. We have to protect those who are not yet vaccinated so we have to observe health protocols.”]

On July 16, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said 16 more people were reported to have the Delta variant, including 11 who were locally acquired cases, Clustering of local cases were also detected in Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

There are to date 35 Delta variant cases recorded in the country. The previous 19 cases recorded were all returning overseas Filipinos who were immediately quarantined upon arrival.

“There are a lot of unknowns here. ‘Yung Delta variant samples na nakita natin are mostly in the provinces. Pero we don’t know when makakapasok siya dito (Metro Manila),” the OCTA scientist said.

[Translation: “There are a lot of unknowns here. The Delta variant samples we saw are mostly in the provinces. But we don’t know when the variant could eventually come here.”]

OCTA is seeking to restore border controls through the so-called NCR Plus bubble that was earlier dismantled as infection numbers steadied at around 5,000 in May.

Metro Manila mayors should make a “concerted effort” in fine-tuning the details of border checks, Guido said, noting that Navotas City so far is alone in this aspect.

OCTA also recommends the restoration of a ban on children from going out of their homes, while stricter rules governing social gatherings should be reimposed.

“If we can keep the Delta variant out, we should be okay. We don’t have to change our quarantine status,” Guido said.