MANILA, Philippines – The coronavirus outbreak in Pasig City is slowing down, showing that the “enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and other medical interventions” are effective, Mayor Vico Sotto said on Thursday evening, April 30.
Sotto posted on his official Facebook page a graph showing the curve of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pasig, and noted that their doubling time – how long it takes for cases to double in number – has gotten longer.
From 54 confirmed cases on April 1, the number had almost doubled within 4 days to 105 on April 4. From then, it took 12 days before the number of cases approximately doubled again to 205 on April 15.
Pasig reported 325 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, April 30, which meant the doubling time has slowed yet again – the number has not doubled since April 15.
The city began “expanded testing” for the virus on April 17. The mayor noted that the rise in the number of new cases is slowing down even with more residents getting tested, particularly the suspected and probable cases.
“We take every case seriously. But this graph is encouraging,” Sotto said.
Image from the Pasig City Public Information Office
“Ngunit hindi tayo magiging kampante. Nakita natin ‘yung nangyari sa ibang bansa na biglang tumaas ulit ang bilang ng mga kaso. Laban lang nang laban,” he added. (But we will not be complacent. We’ve seen what happened in other countries where the number of cases spiked again. We just keep fighting.)
The slowing “doubling time” of coronavirus cases is a trend also reflected nationwide. On April 21, the Department of Health said the country’s case count was taking an average of 5 days to double, slower than the previous average of 3 days.
The Pasig City government formalized its partnership with private hospital The Medical City on April 15, to carry out a plan for “expanded testing” of patients’ close contacts and healthcare frontliners for the novel coronavirus.
In an interview with reporters on April 22, Sotto said Pasig was able to conduct around 350 COVID-19 tests per day: 50 of them, the more reliable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and 300 rapid tests subject to confirmatory testing.
At the time, there were around 100 close contacts lined up for testing.
On Thursday, Sotto said in an interview on RX 93.1 FM radio that Pasig had already covered that testing backlog – all suspected and probable cases are able to get tested on the same day they ask for it.
Sotto said his city is “very lucky” that The Medical City, which he called “one of the best hospitals in the country,” is located in Pasig.
Social distancing in marketplaces
The local government is focusing on getting people to practice physical distancing in public places, especially if and when the ECQ or lockdown eases into the less stringent “general community quarantine” after May 15, Sotto said.
He said efforts by other local governments to mark spaces for social distancing, such as painting circles on the pavement to mark where shoppers should stand in line to enter a grocery store, seem to be effective, and Pasig is following suit.
On Monday, April 27, Pasig expanded its “barangay coding” scheme originally implemented in its main public market. Beginning Thursday, residents of Pasig’s 30 barangays only have two days each week when they are allowed to step out of their houses to buy groceries and run errands. Which days they’re allowed to shop depends on which barangay they come from.
It’s quite strict, Sotto said, but the city needs to maximize the remaining two weeks of the lockdown to further flatten the curve of the virus’ transmission.
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.