Octa: New Covid cases uptick in Cebu a 'serious concern'

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AN INDEPENDENT research group says Cebu, including Cebu City, has become an area of “serious concern” with its current trend of increasing Covid-19 cases.

OCTA Research Group, in its Jan. 28, 2021 report, states that if this trend continues, there is a possibility that the figures that Cebu had during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period in 2020 could return in the next two weeks.

“The last time Cebu was placed under ECQ, the province averaged 400 new cases per day. This number could be reached in two weeks if trends are not reversed,” the group said.

In the past seven days, Cebu averaged 147 new Covid-19 cases daily, according to the research group, which is primarily composed of the University of the Philippines faculty members and alumni with contributors from University of Sto. Tomas and Providence College in the United States.

The number constitutes an increase of 67 percent from the previous week. The OCTA research group noted that from Dec. 17 to 23, 2020, the province averaged only 11 additional Covid-19 cases per day.

The research group also said the reproduction number in Cebu Province over the past week was 1.57, which it said was much higher than the 0.96 reproduction rate for the entire country.

The research group said Cebu’s positivity rate (the number of positive results from the number of samples tested) over the past week was at six percent even as the testing through RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) in Central Visayas “increased by 10 percent” to 2,400 tests per day.

The report claims that while the attack rate of Cebu is still below the high risk cutoff, the significant increase in new cases, if unmitigated, could pose challenges to the province’s health care system.

The group further said the concern right now is the possibility that the UK B.1.17 variant is already spreading in parts of Cebu.

DOH 7 comment

Sought for comment, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Department of Health (DOH) 7 spokesperson, said there are differences in the Covid-19 situations in Cebu City and Cebu Province in 2020, especially in the months from May to July.

Loreche said while it may be true that Cebu’s new Covid-19 cases have been increasing in double- digit figures, there are other factors that must be considered in interpreting the numbers of new cases.

These factors include the Covid-19 critical care utilization rate or the number of regular and intensive care unit (ICU) beds for Covid-19 patients, isolation beds and ventilators in use in various health and medical facilities for Covid-19 patients, and the capacity of the temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, among others.

Loreche said the critical care utilization rate in Cebu is way below the safe level that is at 60 percent of the allocated beds for Covid-19.

Currently, the utilization rate is at 24.3 percent—of the 897 beds (regular Covid-19 beds and ICU beds). There are only 218 beds (206 regular beds and 12 ICU beds) occupied by Covid-19 patients in private hospitals.

Loreche also said the isolation facilities were already put in place; these are manned by health care professionals and the testing capacity is “very much operational” and “up to the challenge” of releasing results in 24-48 hours, granting a faster turnaround time (the amount of time taken to complete a process or fulfill a request) that is crucial in placing the patients in quarantine facilities and in the contact tracing efforts.

The most recent data of the DOH 7 show that the Covid-19 positive individuals who are asymptomatic make up 87.8 percent of the total number of active cases, according to Loreche.

Under control

Cebu’s emergency operation centers are “efficient and are actively involved,” ensuring that the required measures are done to contain the new coronavirus, Loreche said.

“We are still very much in control of the situation,” Loreche said.

The DOH 7 official said there is no need to change the modified general community quarantine status of the entire Cebu island.

Cebu City cases

The Covid-19 active cases in Cebu City breached the 1,000 mark again after the city logged 97 new cases last Wednesday, Jan. 27.

As of Jan. 27, Cebu City’s active cases of Covid-19 had reached 1,051, according to the DOH 7.

The last time Cebu City had active cases at the 1,000 level was on Aug. 25, 2020, when it recorded 1,212 active cases.

In the past 14 days, Cebu City has recorded 282 recoveries.

The city had a 7.68 percent positivity rate out of 1,289 individuals tested last Jan. 26, which Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the city’s Emergency Operations Center, found alarming.

He said the 7.68 percent daily positivity rate is beyond the five percent threshold set by the World Health Organization.

As of Jan. 27, the total cases of Covid-19 in the city had reached 12,116, of which 1,051 were active cases, 10,364 recoveries and 701 deaths, the DOH 7 reported.

The city’s positivity rate was 8.21 percent out of the 147,546 individuals tested. / WBS, JJL, PAC