MANILA - Metro Manila will need to conduct 15,000 coronavirus tests daily and employ 1,800 contact tracers to offset the expected increase of cases once it eases its lockdown, researchers from the University of Santo Tomas said Thursday.
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to announce Thursday on whether or not to ease the modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila after 77 days of lockdown.
The increase in COVID-19 cases is "inevitable" but may be offset with a "rigorous tracking, testing, and tracing program," according to the UST CoV-2 Model developed by associate professor Bernhard Egwolf of the university's department of math and physics and Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, a professor of biology at Providence College USA.
"We cannot continue strict quarantine forever, it’s not sustainable. So we need to find a way to deal with the disease but at the same time try to lift the quarantine. We have to live with it for a while until there’s a vaccine," Egwolf told ANC.
Malacañang earlier claimed the country now has the capacity to run 30,000 coronavirus tests daily. Data from the health department show some 10,000 tests were conducted in previous days.
The DOH later clarified that Malacañang's claim was the estimated maximum testing capacity in the country.
The two researchers urged authorities to focus on Manila and Quezon City, which have the highest number of cases in the region.
"We recommend that tracking, testing, and tracing programs in Metro Manila focus their efforts on limiting the impact of superspreading events (SSEs) which are associated with both explosive growth early in an outbreak and sustained transmission in later stages," they said.
The pandemic curve has flattened in the Philippines with its peak recorded in early May, the researchers said.
"Yes. Since the lockdown the curve flattened a lot. If you compare a model without lockdown, it actually saved a lot of lives," Egwolf said.
"New York, they locked down a week or 5 days later than Manila. Metro Manila is about the same size as New York City. They have so many more deaths just because they locked down a few days later."
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded 15,049 cases of COVID-19, with 3,506 recoveries and 904 deaths.