MANILA - Lifting or easing the enhanced community quarantine for the National Capital Region and in some provinces may defeat the gains that the national government has made in the past few months in its fight against the spread of COVID-19, a study conducted by a team from the University of the Philippines said.
In its forecast report dated May 8, the group of Guido David of the UP Institute of Mathematics, Ranjit Singh Rye, assistant professor of the UP Department of Political Science and Ma. Patricia Agbulos, associate of the OCTA Research recommended to the national government to extend the ECQ for the NCR, Batangas, Cebu, Zamboanga del Sur and Davao City beyond May 15.
"May danger na kapag marami 'yung new cases malaki ang chance ng resurgence lalo na Metro Manila kaya 'yung Metro Manila 'di namin ni-rerecommend na mag-open siya ng hiwa-hiwalay... na isang LGU mag-open, problematic 'yung implementation nun," said David in an interview on DZMM Teleradyo on Tuesday.
The group has been conducting its study since April using data from the Department of Health (DOH).
"Ang binibilang namin 'yung ilan ang recent cases and based doon sa South Korean study, ang benchmark namin 1 per million per day. Kunwari ang QC population mga 3 million, so ang estimate namin mga 3 new cases per day, mababa na siya pag ganun na level. Kino-compute din namin 'yung rate of transmission para makita natin kung bumiilis o bumabagal ang transmission bawat lugar," David said.
The group believes relaxing the ECQ for Metro Manila will encourage increased mobility and may lead to increased transmissions of the virus resulting in more deaths.
"Our data suggest that a premature relaxation of the ECQ in the NCR may result in an escalation of 24,000 cases and 1,700 deaths by June 15, 2020," the group stated in their study posted on the UP website.
David cited the case of Cebu where they experienced a resurgence of cases of infection.
"Flattened na 'yung curve sa kanila pero for some reasons nagkaroon ng resurgence. Before April less than 100 cases lang sila, ngayon nasa 1,500 cases na sila so ganun kabilis nangyari," he said.
"Pag sumabog na siya, 'yun ang pinakamahirap i-manage kaya 'yung ang pino-protect natin 'yung resurgence. Pag na-overload health facilities natin, pag puno na mga hospitals, mga beds tapos wala nang mapuntahan 'yung mga second wave, magkakaroon tayo ng problema," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte in a taped public address also echoed the same fears in the possible easing of restrictions in some areas.
"The easing up of the restrictions, hindi iyan sabihin na wala na ang COVID, just because we allow certain people [outside]," said Duterte. "We cannot afford a second or third wave na mangyari. Ito 'yung mabagong mahawa na naman at dadami na naman dahil nga sa meron tayong rules na hindi sinunod," the president added.
Several public and private facilities have been transformed into COVID-19 swabbing, treatment and quarantine centers as the government ramps up its mass testing effort to address the further spread of the virus.
"Yung mass testing, malaking factor 'yan. Ngayon pa lang pumapasok 'yung datos sa mass testing so makikita pa lang natin ang effect. With mass testing, it will give us a better idea. Right now, in the dark tayo kasi 'yung datos natin medyo kulang pa sila. Kung kulang ang data, 'yung model namin 'di din ganun ka accurate," David added.
The study also described contact tracing as the weakest link in the national response to the pandemic and urged for an effective and efficient system to track individuals who may have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive patient.
"Isa sa mga problema natin, 'di tayo prepared for the pandemic, whereas other countries ready na sila. Naka set-up na infrastructures nila to prepare against possible pandemic, kasama din 'yung contract tracing nila meron na silang apps for tracing, ito ang isang bagay na pwedeng pag-isipan ng government. Mag-develop ng apps para pag may susunod na mangyaring ganito, mas ready na tayo," said David.
He said mass testing, contact tracing and the capacity of health facilities are factors that should be considered before reopening the economy.
"Hintayin na muna natin pag mas clear na 'yung picture natin, mas malinaw na saka natin i-move sa GCQ, lalo na ngayon mas marami pang cases sa Metro Manila. Aside from that, may mga unconfirmed cases pa na 'di nache-check sa data set nila. Maraming mga factors na kailangang malinawan muna. So yung mass testing, contact tracing tapos yung health facilities yun ang mga factors bago mag reopen," said David.
As of Monday, May 11, the DOH recorded a total of 11,086 positive COVID-19 cases. Of the total, there were 1,999 cases that have recovered while 726 died.