East Asian nations in the omicron wave and the data for 03.20.2022

The Health Agency announces 577 new cases today, with 229 belonging to the NCR. That’s 40% of the total share of cases for the day. Which really is quite worrisome considering that we have no idea if they are backlog cases or up-to-date. There are 9 of 17 LGUs with double digit cases in the NCR led by the City of Makati and Pasay City with 30 apiece, Parañaque with 28, Manila 27, Quezon City 25, Caloocan 23, Taguig 18, Pasig 16, and Las Piñas 10. All other LGUs had single digit with 2 LGUs reporting zero covid – Pateros and Navotas.

Outside of NCR, the following provinces of HUCs lead the tally: Cavite province 30, Iloilo Province and Iloilo City 46, Zamboanga City 20.

There are 240 new deaths added today.

The positivity rate holds at 2.7%.

Health care utilization has not been updates since March 3, 2022. We most likely will get an update tomorrow, and hopefully, one that is truly up-to-date.

THE WEEK IN REVIEW

South Korea became the epicenter of the global COVID19 pandemic this week as it hit an all-time high of more than 620,000 cases in a single day last March 17 for COVID19. For the past week, S. Korea has been churning 1M cases every 2-3 days.

Vietnam wasn’t far behind with almost 180,000 daily cases (based on a 7 -day average.

As omicron lashes at the East Asian nations, the good news is that the vaccination rate of these countries are at more than 80%, diseases are mostly mild, and their pandemic management is different from that of the Philippines. They are, to put it in words, more disaster prepared in spite of the onslaught of the omicron wave.

Only those countries with lower vaccinations in the vulnerable population (read: senior citizens) like Hong Kong were at a lost when they began counting the dead, placing corpses beside those who had COVID19 because the funeral parlors could not keep up with the mounting deaths.

The Philippines continued its low cases streak but has most likely hit a trough in spite of the lower reproduction number (Rt = 0.53 +/- 0.05). We ended last week with a 7-day average of 590 daily cases and as of yesterday averaged 531 daily cases (which isn’t a significant decline compared to the lower cases we had in December 2021, after the delta surge and before the omicron wave. Majority of the daily cases remain concentrated in the National Capital Region, most likely because of the density of the region and that testing is more accessible and plentiful in Mega Manila.

Deaths were erratic the whole week as the agency were reporting backlogs aside from the daily deaths. Daily deaths averaged 97 per day based on a 7-day moving average.

Comparing this to how the other countries performed, the graph below shows the 7-day average in the different countries (with China and Brunei added).

Based on a per capita (number of cases per million population), South Korea led the pack. And while Brunei may have around 2150 daily cases only, the small nation of half a million people was enough to push it into second spot with 4860 cases per million population. Hong Kong comes in third with 3500 per million, Vietnam fourth with 2800 per million and Singapore fifth with 2000 per million. The Philippines and China are the sole nations with single digit per million population. The data may not be a reflection of the actual situation as the stark contrast is that the Philippines has decreased its testing capacity by limiting it to A1, A2 and A3 and contact tracing is not routine anymore. On the other hand, China aggressively tests and does contract tracing in almost every province or city where there is an outbreak of cases noted.

With that data, the reproduction rates of the various countries show that Vietnam and Korea remain critical. The upcoming week will see Vietnam continue to report a slight uptick in numbers and should be peaking anytime soon. South Korea has lower Rt this week compared to last and is seeing a slight decline in numbers. Most likely, it has reached its peak. With aggressive testing in Korea, 1 in every 20 individuals are currently testing positive. Brunei has also peaked and are seeing a slight decline in numbers. Those with Rt < 1.0 are Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

At the current trend, East Asia should see better days in the next four weeks. With the aggressive stand of China on the ZERO COVID policy, they should be able to handle omicron much better than other countries. Otherwise, a country with 1.4B people will create a global havoc with numbers soaring if omicron is allowed to breakthrough in each and every province and city.

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