COVID-19

Octa warns COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila could hit 2,400 per day if it shifts to MGCQ

Bonz Magsambol

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File photo of a woman wearing a face mask as she walks along EDSA

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While they recognize the need to jumpstart economy, the Octa team says the shift to MGCQ by March is 'risky' and 'contrary to sensible epidemic management'

Experts studying the coronavirus outbreak in Metro Manila warned that COVID-19 cases in virus epicenter Metro Manila could reach 2,400 per day should the government place it under the least strict quarantine mode.

Octa warns COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila could hit 2,400 per day if it shifts to MGCQ

In a report published on Wednesday, February 17, the Octa Research Group said that cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) could reach 2,400 cases per day by March 26 if Metro Manila restrictions are relaxed to “very loose” levels.

“Note that 2,400 cases is per day was the level in NCR in August 2020 when the pandemic became unmanageable and NCR had to be placed under a stricter quarantine to curb transmissions,” the Octa team said.

The reproduction rate (R) – the number of people that one COVID-19 positive case can infect – in NCR is at 1, the Octa team said.

Experts have said that the goal was to keep R below 1 to contain virus transmission until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

“If restrictions in NCR are relaxed to very loose levels, the region will be under a constant threat of a surge due to the increased mobility of people, reduced social distancing and diminished compliance with health protocols, as was observed at the outset of the December holidays,” the experts warned.

Graph from Octa Research Group

This finding comes after the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to put the entire country under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) by March to jumpstart the economy.

Duterte said he was studying the proposal of NEDA.

Why this matters

When the country eased its quarantine restrictions in July to August, the healthcare system was “nearly overwhelmed” due to the spike in cases. This prompted healthcare workers to call for a “timeout” as they urged the government to revert Metro Manila to stricter quarantine measures. (READ: Doctors warn Duterte: PH ‘nearing end of the line’ in coronavirus battle)

Experts had also warned that the emergence of the more infectious United Kingdom (UK) variant of COVID-19 might increase cases in the country by 15-fold. The country has so far, recorded 44 cases of the UK variant.

“While we recognize and support the need to jumpstart the economy and create livelihood for our citizens, at this time, the proposal to shift the NCR to MGCQ by March 2021 amidst the backdrop of a more contagious and lethal UK variant spreading in the regions is not just risky but also contrary to sensible epidemic management,” the Octa team said.

The Octa team urged the national government to defer consideration of the NEDA proposal to shift the region to MGCQ until government has finished vaccinating all health workers in the region and until local government units have been given more time to prepare for a transition to MGCQ status.

Though it could not give the exact dates of the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the government said it would start its vaccination program this February.

The pandemic has infected over 109 million people globally. As of Wednesday, February 17, the Philippines has 553,424 cases, with 11,577 deaths and 512,033 recoveries. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.