OCTA warns of possible rise in COVID-19 cases as NCR positivity rate spikes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 24) — The OCTA Research Group on Thursday raised the alarm about the rising COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila following the nearly 2% increase in the weekly positivity rate in the National Capital Region (NCR).

OCTA fellow Guido David said the seven-day positivity rate in the NCR spiked to 9.2% as of Nov. 22 from 7.4% on Nov. 15.

He explained the region could see a repeat of the rise in cases back in June if the positivity rate, which refers to the percentage of tested people with positive results, continues to go up.

"Unless the trends change, this looks like the start of another wave of infections in the NCR as cases will likely start increasing again," he said in a Twitter post.

In a separate interview at the Laging Handa briefing, David says the observed increase is not a cause for alarm.

"Hindi pa naman nakaka-alarma at this level, at hindi natin alam kung magpapatuloy ito. Ito ay minomonitor pa rin namin," he said.

[Translation: This level is no cause for alarm, and we still don't know whether this will continue. We will still continue to monitor the situation.]

David also said it was still too early to say whether there would be a new wave of infections, adding subvariants factored in during the past two waves.

"Sa ngayon may possibility na baka ito yung binabantayan natin — yung BQ subvariant na kumakalat sa US at kumalat din sa Europe. We should also note na may pagtaas ng cases sa China at Japan and other countries, so parang hindi nalalayo na magkaroon ng wave sa ating bansa, pero hindi naman tayo masyadong alarmed sa possible wave sa ngayon," he said.

[Translation: For now, this could be the subvariant we're monitoring — the BQ subvariant spreading in the US and Europe. We should also note the rise in cases in China, Japan, and other countries, so a wave may not be far here, but still, we are not too alarmed about a possible wave right now.]

David added it was possible for cases to reach between 300 to 400 daily by the end of the month or even higher by December.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier this week said the recent upticks in COVID-19 cases are insignificant.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire on Tuesday noted that the difference between the daily case average in the past two weeks is only about a hundred cases.

She added that positivity rate is no longer used as a benchmark for the COVID-19 situation in the country.

"Tayo ngayon not so much on the cases but more on the admission in our hospitals. So pag nakita natin kakaunti ang severe at critical, o hindi na talaga pumapalo ng more than 50%, we think we're good, ano?" Vergeire said.

[Translation: Now we don't focus much on the number of cases, but on the admission in our hospitals. If we see that there are less than 50% severe and critical cases, we think we're good, right?]

The DOH again reminded the public to remain careful, especially when attending gatherings during the upcoming holiday season.

Vergeire said citizens, particularly those who are vulnerable or at high risk for infection, should wear masks when attending gatherings.

The DOH is set to recommend to the Inter-Agency Task Force a revised COVID-19 alert level system similar to the weather bureau's tropical cyclone warning system by December.

CNN Philippines' Lara Tan, Pia Garcia, and AC Nicholls contributed to this report.