DOH, experts say PH coronavirus cases could reach 75,000 by June if not contained

Mara Cepeda
DOH, experts say PH coronavirus cases could reach 75,000 by June if not contained
But DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire says it's possible to spread out this estimate into 'many months' if stringent measures, like social distancing, are enforced

MANILA, Philippines – Experts from the Philippines and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate the novel coronavirus cases in the country could peak to 75,000 in the next 3 months or by June if not properly contained. 

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday, March 18, that this was the projection of experts from the DOH, WHO, and Filipino epidemiologists based on the total number of cases recorded worldwide, which currently stands at over 189,000.  

“Ang ibig sabihin ng 75,000 na ito, that in two to 3 months, it can reach that peak kung saan 75,000 ang puwedeng magkaroon ng infection. Pero sinasabi natin na we can flatten this curve, meaning kaya natin pigilan ang ganitong numero,” Vergeire said during the “Laging Handa” press briefing aired on state-run PTV-4.

(This means that in the next two to 3 months, the positive cases can peak wherein 75,000 may possibly get infected. But we’re also saying that we can flatten this curve, meaning we can stop this number from becoming reality.)

“Ito po ay isang modeling estimate na ginawa po ng ating mga eksperto kasama ang WHO, ang ating mga epidemiologists dito sa ating bansa. At sinasabi po na ang 75,000 ay aabutin natin kung hindi tayo maglalagay ng interventions na appropriate,” the DOH official added.

(This is a modeling estimate that we did along with experts from the WHO and our epidemiologists here in our country. We’re saying that we could reach 75,000 cases if we do not put proper interventions.)

Their findings showed it was possible for one patient with COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus, to infect two persons “in just one sitting.” 

“Ito po ay nakuha natin base po doon sa statistics na mayroon tayo ngayon among all cases across the globe na sinasabi po na puwedeng magkaroon ng reproductive rate ang ating virus ng one person can transmit it to two persons in just one sitting. So isang interaction po ng isang tao,” added the DOH official.

(We got this based on the statistics we have so far among all cases across the globe, which says the virus can have a reproductive rate wherein one person can transmit it to two persons in just one sitting. So that’s just based on one interaction of one person.) 

Data scientists Christopher Monterola and Erika Fille Legara have also computed that 26,000 patients in the Philippines could get COVID-19 by the end of March alone if its random spread is not contained.  

Still, Vergeire said it is possible to slow down the rate at which people get sick – what experts call as “flattening the curve” – as long as strict measures are implemented to contain the spread. 

“Puwede natin i-spread into many months ‘yan if only we can implement stringent measures katulad nitong social distancing na sinasabi natin. (We can spread out the infections into many months, but only if we can implement stringent measures like social distancing),” she said. 

President Rodrigo Duterte already declared a state of calamity in the Philippines as the COVID-19 cases continue to rise, with total infections now at 193 with 14 deaths and 7 recoveries. 

The President also placed the entire island of Luzon on lockdown, where all residents are ordered to stay home unless deemed by necessary under the guidelines set by the national government’s inter-agency task force.

Several provinces, cities, and municipalities in the Visayas and Mindanao have also declared localized lockdowns and placed their localities under a state of calamity.

The WHO already called for “aggressive” action in Southeast Asia to beat the fast-spreading coronavirus. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.