To flatten the curve of coronavirus infections in Metro Manila, authorities must cut down COVID-19’s reproduction and positivity ratios to less than five percent or one in ten persons, researchers from the University of the Philippines who have been tracking the pandemic said Tuesday.
Butch Ong of UP-OCTA Research Team made the comment a day after President Rodrigo Duterte decided to keep Metro Manila under a general community quarantine (GCQ), a protocol that allows only limited public transportation and restricted operation in various industries.
“To flatten the curve is to lower the number of cases so our healthcare capacity can take care of those who are sick. The curve, in a way, is being flattened but it can increase any time,” Ong said.
“The only way we can maintain it is by lowering the reproduction value. It is now at .77 in NCR. If we could make it to .5 or lower, that will surely bring the curve down to a very controllable state.
And if we can bring the positivity rate at 5 percent or below, that will further flatten the curve to the ideal level,” Ong added.
At present, the positivity rate in NCR is at 9 percent, he said.
Prof. Ranjit Rye, also of the UP-OCTA Research team, said the situation in the National Capital Region has been improving, although it is still premature to downgrade its quarantine status right now.
He added that while the hospital capacity in NCR is not yet critical, hospitals would still be unable to handle a surge of cases.
It’s one reason why the Department of Health said a clustering of COVID-19 cases and the high occupancy rate of hospital beds prevented the authorities from placing Metro Manila under an MGCQ.
The lockdown level can be downgraded to modified GCQ "if we can reduce the number of clustering of these cases," said DOH spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an interview on ANC.
"It was decided that it would remain under GCQ because there are still some areas with a clustering of cases. We needed to monitor these areas," she said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he believes Metro Manila could be downgraded to a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) within a month, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to keep it under a GCQ until Oct. 31.
"Actually, many LGUs in Metro Manila want to downgrade to MGCQ.
However, there are still those, I think about half, who would like to continue with GCQ so they could arrange their COVID-19 prevention efforts so these could be sustained. I think one month more (won't hurt us), it will help us a lot," Lorenzana said in Filipino on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Solaire-Pagcor Mega Quarantine Center at the Bagong Nayong Pilipino in Parañaque City on Tuesday.
Lorenzana, also chairman of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, said some Metro Manila LGUs are afraid to loosen restrictions, fearing a return to a modified enhanced community quarantine if new COVID-19 cases spike.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said they needed to strengthen efforts to put COVID-19 patients in isolation facilities.
He added that this measure was discussed during his meeting with Metro Manila mayors.
Año said the people who had close contact with the COVID-19 patients must be tested for the disease before being allowed to go out of their homes.
Through this, he said the chain of Covid-19 transmission would be broken.
Based on Department of Health data, the biggest number of new COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days has been recorded in NCR with 12,216.
This was followed by Region 4A (Calabarzon) with 6,374, Region 3 or Central Luzon with 2,753, Region 6 or Western Visayas with 2,261 and Region 7 or Central Visayas with 1,083.
On Tuesday, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that 85 percent of Filipinos are worried about getting infected with COVID-19.
Valenzuela, Makati, Muntinlupa are among areas that recently saw a spike in coronavirus infections, National Task Force COVID-19 Spokesperson military Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo.
Metro Manila's hospital bed utilization has improved to less than 60 percent from the previous 80 percent, which falls under the "danger zone."
This rate should ideally be 30 percent or less, said Vergeire.
"We still need to further decongest our hospitals, we still need to further expand our capacity so that we will be ready… if and when there will be another increase in the number of cases," Vergeire said.