MANILA, Aug 14 (Mabuhay) — The reproduction number of the coronavirus causing COVID-19 has gone up to a critical 1.85 in the National Capital Region (NCR), the OCTA Research group said Saturday, amid the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant.

In its latest monitoring report, the OCTA Research also reported that the country’s reproduction number increased to 1.45.

The independent body also reported 13 local government units (LGUs) with critical number of new daily cases for the period of August 7 to 13.

OCTA on Thursday reported that the country’s reproduction number, which refers to the number of people that each COVID-19 case can infect, stood at 1.41.

Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the possibility of extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila for another three weeks is not yet on the table.

Lopez said the speculations of a five-week ECQ are mere rumors and “fake news” since the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has not discussed any possible extension of the hard lockdown yet.

“Wala pang ganoong usapan. In fact, hanggang August 20 lang ‘yung napag-agreehan,” he said.

The National Capital Region (NCR) is under ECQ — the strictest quarantine level — from August 6 to 20.

In a statement, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting president Edgardo Lacson said, “Mere mention of lockdown stokes greater fear than the infection from COVID-19. Another five-week lockdown could be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. It will wipe out the temporary economic gains we earned in between lockdowns and could stop the momentum of business from moving forward.”

Lacson hopes that the planned five-week lockdown is just an overreaction to the rising cases of the Delta variant.

The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, likewise, said that an extended lockdown will “aggravate the undue hardship and suffering of our people who have yet to recover from the ill effects of the pandemic.”

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said it is still “too early” to discuss whether or not the ECQ in Metro Manila will be extended.

Lopez said the Department of Health (DOH) only presented scenarios of possible rise in COVID-19 cases during varying weeks of community quarantines.

The DOH, last Saturday, presented how many active cases will be in Metro Manila in relation to the varying durations and levels of community quarantine by the end of September.

One week GCQ with heightened restrictions + five weeks ECQ = 15,000 active cases

One week GCQ with heightened restrictions + three weeks ECQ + two weeks MECQ = 42,000 active cases

One week GCQ with heightened restrictions + two weeks ECQ + three weeks MECQ = 58,000 active cases

Nonetheless, the Trade chief assured that the government will balance health and economy in its decisions.

Lopez earlier proposed to place NCR under modified ECQ and granular lockdowns after August 20 to balance the economy and livelihoods to health risks arising from the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the threat of the more contagious Delta variant.

The economic loss per week due to varying levels of strict quarantine modes is estimated at P150 billion, according to the National Economic and Development Authority. (MNS)

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