East Asia in review and the data for 09.11.2022

The Health Agency announces 2230 new cases with 12.3% positivity and 16 added deaths today. Almost half the cases today came from the National Capital Region (1056).

Two LGUs in NCR had double digits: Quezon City with 234 and Manila with 180. Thirteen other LGUs reported double digits: Pasig 91, Makati 70, Parañaque 66, Taguig 61, Las Piñas 57, Caloocan 55, Marikina 46, Mandaluyong 41, Valenzuela 41, Muntinlupa 33, Pasay City 31, Malabon and San Juan with 17 cases each.

Outside of NCR, Cavite and Rizal reported triple digits with 157 and 123, respectively.

Provinces with more than 50 but less than 100 cases were: Laguna 62, Batangas 62 and Bulacan 72.

The Situation in NCR

Prof. Guido David of OCTA Research provides a summary of the cases in the National Capital Region, the epicenter of the pandemic in the Philippines. Mega Manila will remain the epicenter because of its density and should be a reminder to government officials and those managing the pandemic in the country that this region is roughly only 620 km2 in land area but with a population of around 15 million people, has around 25,000 people per km2. Quezon City is the largest (161 km2) among the 17 Local Government Units (LGUs) in Mega Manila, with a population of more than 3 million. This translates close to 17,000 people per km2. Mega Manila is the 15th most dense city in the world [https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/07/11/the-50-most-densely-populated-cities-in-the-world/39664259/].

As we saw cases continue to decline in the middle of August, the past week has seen a few days where the weekly positivity rate in NCR had begun to climb up and the cases move upward as well. This coincided with the resumption of face to face classes (coincidentally or not). The reproduction rate in the Philippines hovers around 0.9 (+/- 0.05), up from a Rt of 0.82 last week. But it is NCR that breaks the Rt of 1.0 to close at Rt of 1.15 (+/- 0.05) as of yesterday, September 10, 2022.

While the economy is pushing to open on all sectors, the masking mandate is also being rushed. With the current inflection of cases, it is advisable to keep the masking mandate at status quo, considering that only a small percentage of the population has taken advantage of even getting a single booster. On a more serious note, I don’t think the mask has any effect on the economy fully opening and serves as a reminder and caution, that the pandemic is not yet over.

THE WEEK IN REVIEW

East Asia continued to contribute to more than 55% of the global cases of COVID-19 this week, with countries like Japan and South Korea seeing falling numbers but Taiwan and Hong Kong seeing rising cases. The Philippines has seen a bit of decline compared to the previous week, but the data should be interpreted with caution because many do not have RT-PCR done anymore. As noted in the Philippines data, the number of deaths is unusually high as reported cases continue a downward trend (except for yesterday). This unusual trend only points to the fact that we are under testing and under reporting actual COVID-19 cases. Under testing and under reporting is not only providing false information of the true COVID-19 situation in the country, but also making people complacent on minimum public health standards, premature calling to remove face mask policies and not wanting to get booster vaccines against the virus.

Based on population size (per capita), Taiwan and Hong Kong now overtake Japan and South Korea with the highest cases per million people.

The reproduction rate remains above 1.0 for both China and Taiwan, with Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and Brunei seeing a massive improvement in their Rt. This means that China and Taiwan will continue to see increasing cases in the upcoming week, while countries like Singapore Vietnam, Japan and Brunei will continue to see a decline in their new COVID-19 cases.

The Philippines has an Rt up at 0.9 (+/- 0.05) from a previous of 0.82. Again, to reiterate, one will need to see a lowering of reproduction rate for 4-8 weeks in order to drive the numbers down. Seeing a Rt of 0.5 and below is the ideal situation. A Rt that is not sustainable in decline is dangerous, as this reflects under reported data, delayed data, under testing in the country or environmental and social conditions that will affect the actual cases in the country. Mega Manila, the epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines has a Rt at 1.15 (+/- 0.05). This means that even if the cases in the Philippines declines in the upcoming weeks, the NCR will now own even a greater majority of the share of cases and will contribute to the higher cases in the coming week.

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