OCTA: NCR infection rate now faster than Delta surge, cases could breach record high

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 3) — COVID-19 is infecting people in Metro Manila faster than it did during the Delta variant-driven surge last year, OCTA Research said Monday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, OCTA Research fellow Guido David said the capital region's current reproduction number (R0) is 4.78. This means a COVID-positive individual is infecting nearly five other persons on average, which he likened to what happened in South Africa's earlier surge driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

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"To put it into context, during the Delta surge last July to October, the reproduction number did not even reach or exceed 2," David said. During the surge in infections in late March due to the Alpha and Beta variants, the R0 only went as high as 2.1, he explained.

With this, he added there is a "definite possibility" that COVID-19 numbers will surpass figures during the Delta-driven surge.

"Our record in Metro Manila is 9,000 cases in one day. I could definitely see us breaching that. To put it into context, if we breach that record, if we reach 10,000 or maybe even more, we might even reach 15,000 cases or so," said David when asked about the worst case scenario. This record was set in September last year.

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Still, David expressed hope that the public "won't really feel a dramatic impact in terms of death and hospitalizations" given Metro Manila's high vaccination coverage rate.

“There will be just a high number of cases but we will be able to manage it,” he added.

Citing the experience of Omicron-hit countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom, the OCTA Research fellow said cases of the newly discovered variant have a "much, much lower" severity rate.

In a tweet on Monday, David said the country reached a new record high when it comes to positivity rate, or the percentage of tested people with positive results.

"The positivity rate picked up pace again and increased to a new record high 34.7% in the NCR. The previous high in positivity rate was 29.6% on April 2, 2021," Guido said.

David added the country could see up to 6,000 new cases on Tuesday, Jan. 4, with up to 5,000 cases in NCR alone.

The Philippines confirmed its first three local Omicron cases on Dec. 31. To date, it has 14 cases of the highly infectious variant.

The capital region was placed under Alert Level 3 from Jan. 3-15, a move David says could help bring the number of new infections down.