CORONAVIRUS infections may hit a daily record of 11,000 by end-March, according to researchers from the country’s premier university, putting pressure on the government to fast-track its vaccination drive.

The OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines on Tuesday cited a spike in cases, with a virus reproduction rate of 2.03. This means a sick person may infect two more people.

The spike started in the cities of Pasay, Malabon and Navotas and has now spread to other cities in the capital region, OCTA research fellow Fredegusto Guido P. David told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

He said at the start of the week the daily tally could hit 8,000 by the end of the month.

“The increase in cases is not just happening now in the National Capital Region but it’s also happening in many areas in Calabarzon like Rizal, Cavite and parts of Bulacan,” he said. “There’s also another uptick in Cebu City.”

He said cases in cities where the outbreak started were now slowing down.

The spike could be traced to increased mobility, failure to comply with minimum health standards and the detection of the more contagious coronavirus variants in the country, Mr. David said.

The researcher said a one-week strict lockdown would change the numbers and would “definitely control the spread of the pandemic.”

“We’re not necessarily advocating a one-week strict lockdown,” Mr. David said. “Based on scientific fact, yes this would definitely have a bigger impact than the current protocols being implemented.”

He called on the public to have a “personal enhanced community quarantine” especially those who can do their work at home.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 4,437 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 631,320.

The death toll rose by 11 to 12,848, while recoveries increased by 166 to 560,736, it said in a bulletin.

There were 57,736 active cases, 92.6% of which were mild, 4% did not show symptoms, 1.3% were critical, 1.3% were severe and 0.68% were moderate.

The DoH said 10 duplicates had been removed from the tally, while four recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Seven laboratories failed to submit data on Mar. 15.

About 8.8 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Mar. 14, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 120.8 million and killed 2.7 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 97.4 million people have recovered, it said.

Philippine health authorities on Monday reported 5,404 coronavirus infections, the highest daily tally since August as Manila, the capital and nearby cities started enforcing curfews amid a fresh spike in cases.

It was the highest reported in a day since Aug. 14, when DoH posted 6,216 cases, according to past health bulletins.

The surge in coronavirus cases was nearing peak levels posted in the second half last year, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing.

“We might go past the peak in August if we fail to reduce COVID-19 cases,” he said in Filipino.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in August 2020 heeded the call of the health sector to put back Metro Manila and nearby provinces under the second strictest form of lockdown as hospitals neared total collapse.

Mr. Roque said there was no compelling reason to place the entire country under an enhanced community quarantine since hospitals still have the capacity to treat coronavirus patients.

While eight  of the country’s 17 regions have posted a steady increase in health care use rates since Feb. 11, none has reached the moderate risk level, Mr. Roque said.

An inter-agency task force has asked businesses to improve ventilation and ordered local governments to intensify contact-tracing efforts, he said.

At the same briefing, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. blamed the fresh spike in coronavirus cases on Filipinos’ violation of minimum health standards.

More people have relaxed their compliance with health protocols due to the arrival of the vaccines, he said.

Mr. Roque said the spike should not be blamed solely on the gradual reopening of the economy. “We can open the economy as long as we follow health standards.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza