President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, Davao City, along with three other local government units (LGUs), have been identified as high-risk LGUs due to the continued increase in the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases from December 1 to 7.

The OCTA Research group said that aside from Davao City, Makati, Baguio and Mankayan in Benguet province are high-risk LGUs.

OCTA said average daily cases in Davao City rose from 98 to 104, Baguio from 16 to 32 and Mankayan from nine to 21. 

Other areas with increased number of cases for the same period are Quezon City (80), Manila (48), Pasig (37), Makati (36) and Baguio City (32).

The group flagged Mankayan for reaching a 100 percent hospital occupancy while Makati City had 80 percent, both beyond the 70 percent threshold set by the Department of Health (DOH).

Other areas flagged for having more than the allowed 70 percent hospital occupancy rate are Muntinlupa (84%) San Pablo, Laguna (74%) and La Trinidad, Benguet (71%).

“We are concerned that these LGUs may experience high hospital burden in the coming weeks that may stress their health care systems and overwhelm their medical front-liners,” the group said.

It added: “With this increased mobility, we should expect a gradual rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila. This does not have to be a cause of concern as long as the clusters of cases are contained by our LGU contact tracing teams.”

The provinces of Davao del Sur (where Davao City is), Bataan, Benguet, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Isabela, Leyte and Pangasinan were classified as “provinces of concern” by OCTA due to the significant increase in the number of reported Covid-19 cases.

 “At the national level, data shows we had a decrease in cases, but the cases are more spread out throughout the country. The situation remains tenuous at the local level and requires more vigilant monitoring,” OCTA’s report released Wednesday read.

Data from the DOH shows Davao del Sur recording an increase in the average number of daily new cases from 109 from Nov. 24 to Nov. 30 to 113 from Dec. 1 to 7.

Benguet’s average cases also had a significant uptick in daily Covid-19 cases from 38 to 70. Isabela recorded a daily increase from 13 to 31, Bataan (19 to 25), Cagayan (seven to 18), Ilocos Norte (six to 22), Leyte (19 to 24) and Pangasinan (17 to 19).

OCTA said the increase in new cases could be due to community transmission and the rise in mobility within and among provinces.

It also cited pandemic fatigue and the failure of LGUs to monitor and enforce quarantine regulations as the cause of the “deteriorating compliance” with minimum health standards.

“In some places, the situation is exacerbated by continuing post-typhoon effects, including delays in test reports due to the temporary closing of test centers in areas, such as Isabela and Cagayan,” it said.

The research group expects the rise of new cases especially in urban areas in the coming weeks due to the relaxation of anti-coronavirus protocols and the upcoming holidays, especially in heavily crowded areas in Metro Manila.

“This is expected based on the experience of countries such as the US and Canada that have recently celebrated Thanksgiving. In both cases, the holiday celebrations led to significant spikes in COVID-19 cases. We can learn from their experience, and we can do better at mitigating a surge,” they said.

OCTA said other experts’ prediction that the country will have a post-holiday surge of Covid-19 cases will not happen if government and civil society cooperate to prevent a surge in new cases after the New Year celebrations.

“We also, continue to appeal to our citizens to avoid not just crowded and enclosed areas but also to refrain from joining or organizing social gatherings this Christmas season,” the group said, citing the surge of cases in the US and Europe, which has been blamed on social gatherings.

The group advised government to restrict to just up to 10 people every gathering and dissuade office parties and other social events during the holidays.

“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,” they said.

OCTA also called for more intensify testing, contact tracing and isolation efforts to arrest the spread of the disease in their jurisdictions, as well as continuing the implementation of health protocols to combat the spread of the deadly disease.

As of posting time, the Philippines has 445,540 total Covid-19 cases.

OCTA earlier estimated the Philippines will breach the 500,000 mark in total cases by the end of the year.

The DOH earlier said they are preparing for a possible surge in Covid-19 cases. Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said the department will create a contingency plan to respond to a “post-holiday season surge” in Covid-19 infections.   Rommel F. Lopez