Omicron wave in Asia and the data for 02.13.2022

The Health Agency reports 3050 new cases based on 31,402 tests with 11.7% positivity last February 11. Of the reported cases today 99% occurred within the last 2 weeks with NCR, Western Visayas and CALABARZON leading the top 3.

There were 138 duplicates removed from the total case count – 64 of who were recoveries.

While there is ZERO death reported today, this is due to technical glitches in extracting data from COVIDKaya and is NOT the a reflection on deaths at all today.

NCR owned 18% of the total cases today with 558 new cases. Other regions with 300 or more cases were: CALABARZON (313), Western Visayas (367) and Central Visayas (300). Other regions reported 100-299 cases, while 5 regions had double digits. These latter regions were: BARMM (45), MIMAROPA (38), Bicol Region (42), Eastern Visayas (48), and Zamboanga Peninsula (90).

In the NCR, the City of Manila led among all LGUs with 107 cases and was the only LGU in Mega Manila to report triple digits. Quezon City had 98, followed by Makati with 81. All the rest either had less than 50 cases or single digit. The cities with single digit in NCR were: Malabon (9), Marikina (8), Navotas (4), San Juan (8) and Pateros (1).

Outside of NCR, only Davao City was the HCU (highly urbanized city) that had triple digits – 110.

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From OCTA RESEARCH [Prof. Guido David shares] the rundown of risk levels for highly urbanized cities in the Visayas as of February 12. While there is a decline in the weekly growth, the positivity rate in Iloilo City (1 in 4 testing positive) and Ormoc (1 in 2 testing positive) are at severe risk. Health care utilization is a moderate risk for Iloilo City and Tacloban (>50%), while ADAR (average daily attack rate) remains high in Cebu City, Iloilo City and Lapu Lapu (>10 per 100,000 population). While the reproduction number remains less than 0.5 in many areas, the decline may be due to the limited testing that is being done (many doing rapid antigen tests and not captured by the government) and testing only when patients need to be hospitalized for either COVID or nonCOVID cases (eventually ending up as + for SARS-CoV-2).

THE WEEK IN REVIEW

The Philippines continued its downward trend in cases, but unlike the delta wave, this downward trend did not coincide with a concomitant drop in positivity rate. As a matter of fact, the positivity rate in the country remains around 15% (considered high) with an average of 35K tests done daily. This trend of a high positivity rate in spite of a quick, sharp decline in cases is seen in almost all countries affected by the omicron wave. This translates to two things: (1) There will continue to have community transmission but until we meet a threshold that allows ‘comfortably’ stable at the positivity rate AND number of daily cases. (2) Eventually, that number will allow us to ‘live’ with the virus AND that we will eventually stop tabulating the numbers and return to ‘business as usual’ gradually.

The deaths remain high for this lower number of daily cases, as only 60% are recent (occurred in the month of February) while a large chunk are still being reconciled from 2021 to January 2022.

The reproduction rate is generally lower in the Philippines at 0.53 (+/- 0.05) as of February 9. Which means that the decline will most likely continue till the end of the month, but due to the positivity rate, this will reach a threshold or baseline for the omicron wave. This pattern in decline of cases and reproduction rate is very similar to South Africa and UK and in many parts of the world who are settling from the omicron wave.

In the meantime, many countries in Southeast Asia, including northern Asia are seeing the start of their omicron surge. Japan leads in the surge with an average of 95K daily cases, followed by South Korea and Indonesia. Vietnam and Malaysia that saw a slight decline in the past month are seeing an upward trend in cases. The surprise in the group is Hong Kong, which recorded more than 1000 new cases yesterday. The small nation that is under receivership from China is battling its worst surge as it struggles to align with China’s ZERO COVID policy.

In terms of number of cases per capita, however, note that it is Singapore and South Korea that lead among all countries in the region. Only the Philippines and Hong Kong are seeing double digits at 47 per million and 44 per million, respectively.

The effective reproduction number is highest for South Korea and Singapore, and all nations except for the Philippines with Rt >1.0. Japan, while owning the highest cases in the region has a positivity rate of 44% as of February 10. South Korea has a positivity rate of 18%. Vietnam owns the highest positivity rate in the region at 50% (meaning 1 in 2 test positivity). As omicron rages on, the effective reproduction rate may not translate to the actual situation in the respective countries as testing takes a back seat in how the pandemic is addressed.

Seriously, wherever Bloomberg Resiliency Index or Nikkei COVID19 Recovery Index put the Philippines (in the lower bottom of the rung), the country is in a much better place and is handling the pandemic much better than the rest. And while no country can be similar to another in how it manages the pandemic, with the current data, we need to strengthen vaccination in the provinces and other regions where vaccine hesitancy is still high. The economic struggle is real and needs to be addressed, now that we most likely have this under control.

The data next week will should tell us many stories – and that includes the strategy on how to welcome Filipinos to the ‘new normal’.

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