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Enhanced community quarantine averted worse COVID-19 disaster

Had the government opted not to implement a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, about 1.9 million Filipinos would have contracted the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), with a death toll of over 180,000.

Enhanced community quarantine averted worse COVID-19 disaster

This was the forecast made by a group of data analytics experts lead by Prof. Maya Baltazar Herrera of the Asian Institute of Management, Prof. Antonio Dans and Prof. Leonila Dans from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine; Jefferson Tan and Cindy Saw, AIM alumni and partners of Twelve Baskets Analytics Inc.; Camille Bacar, AIM student and general manager of FB Consumer Research Services Inc.; and Patricia Manasan and Jude Michael Teves, both AIM alumni.

The report was submitted to the sub-technical working group on data analysis of the Inter-Agency Task Force that is crafting national policies in response to the pandemic.

Using seven-month forecast horizon ending in mid-November, the study showed that without effective intervention including no ECQ, almost 10 million of the 13.8 population of the National Capital Region would have been infected.

"At peak hospitalization requirements, NCR would have needed over 1.4 million hospital beds just for COVID-19 patients, with over 200 thousand requiring critical care. Peak hospitalization would have been reached in the second half of May. The medical sector would have been overwhelmed and many more deaths than was forecast by the model would have occurred, including of those ill from other conditions who would not have been able to receive care."

"The ECQ averted a disaster. Without ECQ, the disease would have spread very rapidly with dire results," the researchers said.

They cautioned, however, that the lockdown "only buys us time" and what will be after the ECQ has been lifted will have profound effects on health outcomes.

Had the Luzon-wide lockdown been lifted on April 14 would have merely postponed the firestorm, they said.

"Peak hospitalization would be reached in the first week of July. In the period up to mid-November, total deaths would reach over 120,000, and over 1.3 million would need hospitalization. Peak hospitalization would require about a million beds with 70,000 requiring critical care."

"Clearly, a quick ECQ and then going back to normal is not a viable option for the country," the said.

Absent the availability of an effective vaccine, there must be continuing social distancing and other public health measures after the ECQ is lifted.

"This means that there can only be a gradual lifting of quarantine measures, and social distancing, border controls, self-quarantine, and limitations on socializing and gatherings must continue to be in place."

The government, they said, may consider shifting into modified versions of a General Community Quarantine which would be calibrated depending on how the epidemic progresses.

"Because this is a global pandemic, even if we completely eradicate infections locally, it is still possible for the epidemic to begin again through travel. What needs to be clear is that our vigilance concerning this epidemic cannot end until we achieve herd immunity, either through a large majority of the population recovering from the virus or through vaccination."

"This is a change for the long haul and we must prepare ourselves for what is to be our new normal."

Topics: enhanced community quarantine , novel coronavirus disease , Maya Baltazar Herrera
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