OCTA Research warned of a possible Covid-19 surge this Yuletide season, urging everyone to be mindful of their actions as the virus is still a present danger to all.
The research group said there is still much that can be done by the government, private sector, and civil society in the next fortnight to prevent an uncontrolled post-holiday surge in Covid-19 cases in the New Year.
"In our view, a substantial relaxation of restrictions and behavior during this season may result in exponential increases in transmission and prevalence, potentially leading to an uncontrolled post-holiday surge in Covid-19 cases in the New Year,” Octa said.
Octa research marked the city’s return to the high-risk circle, with Mankayan in Benguet, as the only areas in Luzon in the cluster; Makati City for the National Capital Region cluster; and Davao City (Davao del Sur) for the Mindanao island cluster. No area in the Visayas was listed as high-risk.
The Octa team said Baguio logged 16 cases a day from the period of November 24 to 30, and 32 cases a day from December 1 to 7, with an attack rate of 6.3 percent and hospital occupancy of 68 percent.
For areas like Baguio in the “high risk” list, the group of experts urged local government units (LGUs) concerned to further intensify efforts at testing, tracing and isolation to reverse the increase in transmissions in their communities and implement more aggressive and effective localized lockdowns with stricter border controls to suppress further viral transmissions.
Octa added effective and stricter border controls must be in place to mitigate Covid-19 transmissions within and between provinces. A more effective screening procedure and other controls in ports and airports will also be crucial in supporting the government’s plans to expand domestic, as well as international travel in the country.
"We must also remind ourselves that the current positive trends in the NCR and the Philippines are very tenuous and can easily be reversed if the government, the private sector and the public become less vigilant and complacent in the fight against Covid-19,” the independent research group said.
Octa appealed to citizens to avoid not just crowded and enclosed areas but also refrain from joining or organizing social gatherings this Christmas season.
The group cited evidence from Europe and North America that increased social mixing among households is driving the second wave of Covid-19 in these parts of the world.
To prevent a similar wave here in the Philippines, the group encouraged the government and LGUs to enforce the current general community quarantine limit of 10 persons per gathering in the NCR and discourage office parties and other social events, especially since the Christmas season is drawing near.
Octa said family gatherings like bubbles should be limited to the immediate family, and gatherings should also be limited in size. If larger gatherings have to happen, they should be celebrated outside (in open-air/well-ventilated venues) to mitigate transmissions.
"We support government efforts as it gradually reopens the economy to enhance the livelihood of our people. However, we urge the national government to rethink its directives that may increase the chances of dangerous ‘super-spreader’ events, as these can trigger another wave. We should be especially cautious of the impact of these directives as we approach the Christmas holidays,” it said.