Updated at 12:11 am

THE National Capital Region (NCR) on Saturday has recorded a slowdown in the growth of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases, from 5 percent on Thursday to 3 percent on Friday, according to a senior fellow of the OCTA Research Group.

Dr. Guido David said that based on his calculations of data from the Department of Health (DoH), NCR's reproduction number has also decreased to 3.22, down from 3.77 on January 10 and nearly half of the 6.12 reported on January 3.

David added that if the downward trend continues, the NCR could post 16,000 to 17,000 cases on Saturday and 15,000 to 16,000 on Sunday, en route to a consistent decrease.

NO MORE ROOM The Far Eastern University-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation in Quezon City puts up a sign near its entrance on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, advising the public that it can no longer admit Covid-19 patients because it has reached its full capacity. PHOTO BY JOHN ORVEN VERDOTE
NO MORE ROOM The Far Eastern University-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation in Quezon City puts up a sign near its entrance on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, advising the public that it can no longer admit Covid-19 patients because it has reached its full capacity. PHOTO BY JOHN ORVEN VERDOTE

He said that the growth rate going negative means the cases in the region would begin to decrease.

But David clarified that the numbers could change depending on data backlogs and late reporting of cases by the DoH.

David's statement comes as the country logged 39,004 new Covid cases on Saturday, a record in a single day, with NCR posting 18,142.

"We started off with a 2.2 case doubling time, meaning po every two days po dumudoble ang kaso. Ngayon humaba na po ito sa four days. So, nakikita ho natin ang pagbagal pero sa pagbagal na ito, patuloy pa rin po ang pagtaas ng kaso. So, hindi lang 'yung pagbagal ang tinitingnan natin kung hindi rin 'yung mga number ng kaso na ito (meaning that cases have doubled every two days. Now it has lengthened to four days. So, we are seeing a slowdown, but cases are increasing. So, we should focus not only on the slowdown, but on the number of cases as well)," Vergeire said during the Laging Handa briefing.

The DoH believes NCR cases will continue to rise in the next few days due to "sustained" community transmission of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Vergeire said that based on DoH's projections, the number of active cases could reach 300,000 in the NCR alone and that the peak, or the highest single-day number of cases would not be seen until the end of January or the middle of February.

"We are seeing community transmission of the Omicron variant here in the NCR and while we are yet to receive the updated results of our genomic sequencing, we have already determined that we have local cases based on the trends that we are seeing — these are the characteristics of Omicron," Vergeire said.

Besides the NCR, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Central Luzon, Cordillera Administrative Region, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Bicol have also reported increases in two-week growth rates and average daily attack rates.

Vergeire also said that the DoH is planning to deploy its chatbot Kira (Katuwang na Impormasyon para sa Responsableng Aksyon) to allow citizens to send the results of their antigen tests to the agency should they test positive for Covid-19.

The DoH is yet to release the guidelines on the use of self-administered test kits for Covid-19.

Another record high daily increase

The Philippines logged another record high number of new Covid-19 cases in a single day at 39,004 on Saturday, raising the total number of active Covid infections in the country to 280,313.

Of the new cases, 38,271 were tallied from January 2 to 15. The NCR posted the highest number of infections at 18,142, followed by Calabarzon at 9,172 and Central Luzon at 3,325.

Despite the high active caseload, about 98.3 percent or 276,113 were mild and asymptomatic, 2,925 were moderate, 1,472 were severe, and 303 were critical.

Of the 78,774 samples that were processed by 304 out of 312 laboratories nationwide, 47.1 percent, or 37,103 were found positive for the virus.

Total recoveries are at 2.835 million, with 23,613 new survivors. The death toll is at 52,858, including 43 new fatalities.

Occupancy rate for Covid-19 patients in the NCR is at 55 percent in intensive care units (ICUs), 52 percent in isolation beds and 69 percent in wards. On the national level, occupancy rate in the ICUs and isolation beds is at 48 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

No need to raise Alert Level 4 in the NCR

Meanwhile, Malacañang backed the decision of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) not to raise the alert level in the NCR despite the sustained increase of Covid-19 cases in the region possibly fueled by the Omicron variant.

Palace spokesman Karlo Alexei Nograles said that Metro Manila has yet to meet the metric for Alert Level 4, particularly in hospital bed utilization.

The IATF opted to extend Alert Level 3 in the NCR and several other areas until January 31.

"Binabantayan namin ang Metro Manila in terms of iyong bed utilization. At kagaya ng lagi naming sinasabi, kapag tumama po iyan sa 71 percent (We are monitoring Metro Manila in terms of bed utilization. And as what we have been saying, if it reached 71 percent), then that's when it would be right to elevate Metro Manila to Alert Level 4," said Nograles, also the spokesman of the IATF in a virtual press briefing.

Nograles said that as of January 13, the total hospital bed utilization in the country was at 47.15 percent, while ICU bed utilization was at 46.11 percent.

In the NCR, he noted that total bed utilization was at 60.03 percent as of January 13, while ICU beds utilization was at 55 percent.

"So, we are now managing our bed utilization rate by ensuring that only those who are in critical need, who have severe Covid cases, those with comorbidities, those who are vulnerable, those who are elderly are in the hospitals," Nograles said.