Philippines on 'wrong trend' if coronavirus curve doesn't flatten next week: expert

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2020 01:59 PM

A store clerk puts a face shield on a Santa Claus statue inside a Christmas factory store in Sampaloc, Manila on Sept. 1, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippines' coronavirus curve will follow a "wrong trend" if it does not flatten next week, a member of an interdisciplinary research group from the University of the Philippines (UP) said Monday. 

COVID-19’s reproduction rate — or the number of people infected by each person carrying the virus — is at 1.1, said Dr. Guido David of the UP OCTA Research Team. A reproduction rate above "1" means the disease is continuing to expand; below that threshold, it will eventually peter out. 

Last week, this rate went below 1 but spiked again due to "increase in transmissions," said David. 

Experts are seeing a "surge" of infections in parts of the central Philippines, like Bacolod, Iligan and Iloilo, where quarantine procedures for returning residents may have been breached, he said. 

Meanwhile, new cases went down in Metro Manila and neighboring Calabarzon following a 2-week return to the second strictest lockdown level in August. 

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"Last week, parang flattened na nga tayo tapos kumembot ulit, tumaas nang kaunti ang reproduction number... Pero puwedeng short term lang iyan so inaasahan nating bababa ulit ang reproduction number to less than 1," David told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. 

(Last week, it seemed that we have flattened the curve but it swayed again, the reproduction number slightly went up. This could be short-term so we expect that the reproduction number will go down to less than 1 again.)

"Kung hindi pa siya mag-flatten by next week, ibig sabihin nasa maling trend na ulit tayo," he added. 

(If we can't flatten it by next week, it means that we are on the wrong trend again.)

The UP OCTA Research Team earlier predicted that the country could flatten its coronavirus curve by the end of August or in early September. 

Experts have yet to study how salons, barbershops and gyms which recently re-opened could contribute to new infections. Previous outbreaks were observed in offices and the public transport, said David.

The Philippines as of Tuesday confirmed 224,264 COVID-19 cases, of which 62,655 were active. 

Authorities have ordered people to wear face masks and face shields in public areas to prevent outbreaks. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse