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A Status Report on the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Philippines and in the NCR

Photo from Dominican Friars Website

By: Rev. Fr. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., Ph.D., S.Th.D.
UST Visiting Professor of Biological Sciences (2020-2021)

I think that it is important that our medical frontliners and other healthcare professionals appreciate the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines and in the NCR, which contributes more than 50% of the total number of cases in the entire country. At this time, in the middle of October, the pandemic has been receding for the past two months.

Figure 1

As shown in Figure 1, the country experienced a significant surge in COVID-19 cases at the end of July and the beginning of August that threatened to overwhelm our health care infrastructure. At the request of our medical frontliners, the President re-introduced a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) that limited the mobility of citizens in the NCR. This choked the spread of the virus and we have experienced a significant decrease in daily cases since then. At the peak of the surge, we witnessed over 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily for a week-long period. At this time, our daily cases have dropped below 2,000 new cases per day.

Figure 2

This drop in cases is also reflected in the significant drop in the reproduction number for COVID-19 in the country. The reproduction number or Rt is the number of patients that can be infected by a single COVID-19 patient. When the reproduction number is above Rt=1, then one patient can infect more than one other patient. This means that the pandemic is accelerating and growing. If the reproduction number is below Rt=1, then one patient on average is infecting less than one other patient. This means that the pandemic is slowing down and shrinking. As shown in Figure 2, the reproduction number for the Philippines has been below Rt=1, for over a month, which is why our country-wide pandemic has been shrinking since then.

Figure 3

Figure 4

The remaining figures focus on the pandemic in Metro Manila. Not surprisingly, the pandemic curve for the NCR reflects the pandemic curve for the entire country since Metro Manila contributes a significant fraction of the country’s new cases. As shown in Figure 3, the NCR too experienced a surge at the end of July/beginning of August, and the MECQ also reversed the spread of the pandemic. In fact, the slowing of the pandemic has been more significant in Metro Manila. Our daily new cases is already below one thousand per day as compared to the peak of over 2,000 new cases per day during the height of the surge. As shown in Figure 3, this decrease is reflected in the low reproduction number for the NCR which has been below the critical threshold of Rt=1 for nearly a month. Finally, the improvement in the status of the pandemic can be seen in Figure 4, which depicts the positivity rate in Metro Manila. The positivity rate is the percentage of daily COVID-19 swab tests that return a positive result. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the positivity rate is below 10% and ideally below 5% for proper pandemic management. Here in the NCR, our positivity rate is hovering around 8% on a downward trend.

These positive trends in the pandemic in the country and in the capital region are very hopeful as we approach Christmas. We especially have to thank our medical frontliners and public health authorities who are at the forefront of the battle against the virus. However, we must remain vigilant since these trends can be reversed quickly. We should not overestimate our achievements or underestimate the tenacity of this virus.