MANILA – For three straight weeks, an independent research group has observed a significant decline in the average new daily coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in Quezon City.

According to OCTA Research, a group of independent researchers composed primarily of University of the Philippines faculty members and alumni, the average number of daily cases dropped to 456 from Aug. 17 to 23; from the 540 on Aug. 10-16.

It further dropped to 372 from Aug. 24 to 30 and to 205 from Aug. 1 to Sept. 6, based on information used by OCTA from Department of Health (DOH) data, which includes verified and non-verified data of the City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU).

To identify the flattening of the curve, the group said it is crucial to tally a two-week steady decline in the average number of daily cases.

Quezon City’s reproduction number (Ro) also dropped for five straight weeks, from 1.47 (July 27 to Aug. 2) to 0.92 on Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, indicating a decline in the movement of the virus.

Ro indicates how contagious an infectious disease is and its reproduction number. It also tells the average number of people who will contract a contagious disease from an infected person.

“This is a most welcome development. This means that the collective actions of the city government, private sector and residents to control the virus are working,” said Mayor Joy Belmonte. “Despite the downward trend, efforts must still be doubled. We should not let our guard down and push further our efforts to combat the spread of the virus.”

The OCTA Research group also helped identify hotspot barangays, allowing the CESU to monitor areas with high numbers of cases and those with decreasing case doubling time.

“The information from OCTA helped us strategize and determine where to focus, particularly when it comes to testing and contact tracing,” said CESU head Dr. Rolly Cruz.

Joseph Juico, head of the QC Covid-19 Task Force, said residents should not relax amid the decline in number of cases, saying the local government needs their cooperation to further contain the spread of the virus.

“The city cannot afford another lockdown so we need everyone’s cooperation in following protocols such as wearing of masks and face shields, proper handwashing, and social distancing,” said Juico.

Moving forward, OCTA Research recommended that the city government further improve its collaboration with the DOH, particularly with its One Hospital referral system.

Augmenting testing efforts, enhancing contact tracing within 24 hours, and increasing the number of quarantine facilities and bed capacity in hospitals are also crucial in successfully stopping the spread of Covid-19.

“We are grateful for the data analytics and recommendations of OCTA Research, and we will incorporate their suggestions into our strategies and action plans,” said Belmonte.

“These studies are invaluable tools to help us improve our efforts, moving forward”, she added. (PR)