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COVID-19 spread rate declining due to ECQ — UP study

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By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) have noted that the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has been critical in reducing transmission and deaths due to COVID-19 in the country. This was highlighted in a study released on Friday by Professors Guido David and Ranjit Singh Rye with research associate Ma. Patricia Agbulos.

A soldier wearing a face mask holds on his weapon as he guards an empty street following the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, April 24, 2020. (REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez / MANILA BULLETIN)

A soldier wearing a face mask holds on his weapon as he guards an empty street following the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, April 24, 2020. (REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez / MANILA BULLETIN)

According to the group, the rate of transmission for the entire Philippines has been decreasing, and in a number of provinces around the country, the spread of COVID-19 is either controlled or in a decelerating trend.

“ECQ was successful despite limited testing and contact tracing in the country. It does not mean, however, that the positive trend is irreversible,” it said.

The team pointed out, however, that for Metro Manila and Cebu City, the number of new COVID-19 cases “is still very high,” and rate of transmission also remains “high.”

“In short, the transmission of the virus in the country is not yet controlled,” the experts said.

They urged the national government to continue with the imposition of significant restrictions in NCR and Cebu City and expand the same as necessary to other high-risk areas.

They pointed out that mobility and proximity to other people are the main drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Considering that NCR is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and in fact Manila, Pateros and Mandaluyong are top three among all cities and municipalities in the world, reducing mobility and proximity in NCR is a challenge,” the team said.

It added that social distancing and cooperation from the public become very important now that Metro Manila is under modified ECQ.

The UP experts also noted that the risk levels of the pandemic in Batangas, Davao City, and Zamboanga City remain significant, advising the government to closely monitor these areas in the coming weeks.

“We urge government to also monitor the situation in Zamboanga City, Batangas and Davao City as the risk levels of the pandemic in these areas are still significant,” they said.
Citing as an example the sudden increase in the number of cases in Cebu City, they told the government that: “we cannot afford to be complacent, even in areas where the pandemic appears to be contained, because it takes just one spreader to start a second wave of the pandemic.”

They urged the government to also closely monitor Samar and Oriental Mindoro, as a number of new cases appeared in those provinces recently.

“Even in areas under GCQ or those not under community quarantine, vigilance is still needed in order to ensure that any new cases are immediately detected and new outbreaks prevented. Our goal ultimately is not just to flatten the curve but to bend it downwards,” the team explained.

Projections until June 15

The UP research team has projected 9,380 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and 840 deaths in Metro Manila by June 15, assuming that current trends and community quarantine continue.

As of May 22, the Department of Health data showed that the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila has reached 8,750, with 629 total deaths.

The UP experts pointed out that about 64 percent of COVID-19 cases are reported in the National Capital Region (NCR). The highest number of new cases per million in NCR are in Pasay, Parañaque, Pateros, Quezon City, and Mandaluyong–all these LGUs reported at least 10 new daily cases per million of population during the past week.

Meanwhile, Caloocan, Las Piñas, and Valenzuela reported less than four new daily cases of COVID-19 per million of population from May 10 to 16.

“In many LGUs in NCR, the number of cases per week is still increasing,” the experts said.

They pointed out that there was an increase in week-to-week new COVID-19 cases for Mandaluyong, Pasig, Taguig, Pasay, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Marikina, Valenzuela, and Pateros, while there was a decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases as of the most current week for Quezon City, Manila, San Juan, Malabon and Navotas.

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