Experts note spike in COVID-19 cases in provinces as Christmas nears

Bonz Magsambol

COMMUTE. File photo shows commuters bound for the National Capital Region.

Ben Nabong/Rappler

The Octa Research Group says the spike in cases is due to 'community transmission exacerbated by the significant rise in mobility within and among provinces'

Experts studying the coronavirus pandemic in the country noted a spike in coronavirus cases in the provinces as Christmas approaches.

In its latest report published on Tuesday, December 8, the OCTA Research Group said that there were places where increases in new cases were observed from December 1 to 7. These included Benguet, Isabela, Bataan, Leyte, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, and Cagayan.

“More concerning were provinces that also continue to have high positivity rates such as Quezon, Benguet, Isabela and Cagayan for the period from November 30 to December 6,” they added.

The experts also said that this might still be due to a lag in infections as a result of the recent typhoons and flooding.

The group listed the following areas as “provinces of concern” for the period December 1 to 7:

  • Davao del Sur
  • Benguet
  • Isabela
  • Cagayan
  • Ilocos Norte
  • Pangasinan
  • Leyte
  • Bataan

According to the experts, the spike in cases was due to “community transmission exacerbated by the significant rise in mobility within and among provinces.” They said that this could be due to “poor border controls, sparse testing, and leaky quarantine measures” as a result of the opening up of the economy over the last few months.

In a virtual press briefing on Wednesday morning, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III attributed the spike in cases in the provinces to “increased mobility of people because of the holiday season.”

“This is a warning to all of us that if we let our guard down, you’re going to really see what we’ve been saying all along [about] the surge in the number of cases,” he said.

Duque assured the public that they will continue to monitor the situation in these areas and help local government units identify the clustering of infections for quick response.

Meanwhile, the group noted that the country was able to keep its reproduction number – or the number of people that one positive case can infect – to below 1. The reproduction number in the Philippines is at 0.91.

The average number of daily cases in the country also dropped from 1,574 (November 30 to December 6) to 1,396 (December 1 to 7), the experts added.

‘Rise in cases anticipated’

The group warned the public that a spike in new cases is expected due to the “holiday rush.”

“This is especially likely in urban centers like NCR [National Capital Region]. This is expected based on the experience of countries such as the US and Canada that have recently celebrated Thanksgiving,” the experts said.

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Public health officials urged people to limit their gatherings, and recommended alternative activities – such as doing shopping online – during the holiday season to prevent further transmission.

The government is also discouraging Metro Manila residents to go to the provinces during the holidays.

“We all know that Christmas parties might be a cause for superspreader events and we don’t allow that to happen,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said.

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has 442,785 COVID-19 cases, with 8,670 deaths, 408,790 recoveries, and 25,325 active cases. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.