MANILA — Department of Health (DOH) Undersec. and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire  countered OCTA Research’s claim that COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila may have already reached its peak at their Laging Handa briefing last September 18.

“At this point, in our analysis, hindi pa natin nakikita na nagpi-peak na po tayo dito sa mga kaso. Pinag-aaralan po nating maigi ‘yan,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire noted that the National Capital Region (NCR) recorded nearly 8,000 COVID-19 cases in one of the days last week before decreasing to around 5,000 to 5,500. 

“Ito pong recent days nakita natin 5,800 naman, so tataas, bababa, tataas, bababa,” she said.

Over the past week, the seven-day moving average in NCR increased by eight percent to 5,825 compared to 5,410 from September 4 to 10.

There is a total of 52,561 active COVID-19 cases in NC based on the latest DOH data. 

The DOH’s statement followed OCTA’s latest update claiming COVID-19 cases in NCR “may have already peaked,” noting the dip of the reproduction number to 1.14 while the region’s positivity rate went down to 24 percent. 

The reproduction number refers to the number of people each confirmed case can infect, with a figure below one indicating that the spread of the virus is slowing down. 

OCTA noted that the NCR’s average weekly cases went down to 13 percent or 5,319 infections from September 13 to 19 from the previous week’s 5,916. 

“The indications are that the surge may have already peaked in the NCR but the decrease in cases needs to be sustained before we can establish with certainty that cases have already peaked,” OCTA said. 

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David on Twitter said that efforts to sustain the downward trend must be implemented. 

“Early indications are that the surge may have already peaked in the NCR but efforts must be sustained to ensure the trend continues downward,” he said. 

“Due to backlog, expect that there will be days when cases could still spike,” David added.

Projection not cast in stone

In report by GMA NewsVergeire said their projections revealed that COVID-19 cases in NCR will peak towards the end of September or by early October. 

“This delayed peak may be due to a slowdown in the case increases brought on by implemented community quarantine restrictions, improvement of PDITR (Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate), and vaccination, thereby leading to a longer period before we reach the said peak but with markedly smaller number of cases versus an early and steeper peak with a larger number of cases,” she said. 

Previously, the DOH forecast NCR’s daily COVID-19 cases could range between 16,000 and 43,000 by September 30 but insisted the projection is “not cast in stone.”

“We noted that these estimates may differ from what we previously reported, probably because of the compliance to minimum public health standards, there is lower mobility, and vaccination coverage is higher than what was assumed and included in our projections,” Vergeire said. 

OCTA, meanwhile, cited the average daily attack rate of 36.77 cases per 100,000 population and that the surge in NCR is “still at a very high level.”

“Even with a possible downtrend in new cases, the NCR will likely still have around 4,000 new cases per day by the end of September and more than 2,000 new cases per day by the end of October,” the group said.

“This means the healthcare system in the NCR, which currently has 69 percent utilization for hospital beds and 77 percent utilization for ICUs per DOH, will likely continue to be at close to staffing capacity until October,” the group added.

COVID-19 cases in NCR now slowing down

In another report by The Philippine Star, the DOH said that the number of COVID-19 cases in NCR continues to increase at a much slower rate compared to previous weeks. 

Vergeire explained that cases decreased by 13 percent or 780 fewer infections from September 13 to 19 compared to the previous week.  

“Our case data showed that cases in NCR continued to increase, but at a slower rate. This is evidence from the positive growth rates over the past month,” Vergeire said, noting that the infection rates in Mindanao have also hit a plateau. 

As of September 20, the Philippines has 2,385,616 total COVID-19 cases after logging 18,937 additional infections and 146 more deaths.