MANILA, Philippines – The OCTA Research Group on Wednesday suggested the extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) period in the National Capital Region (NCR) and four nearby areas to sustain the downward trend of COVID-19 cases in the country.
During a Laging Handa briefing, OCTA fellow Ranjit Rye said the extension will allow the government to open more quarantine facilities, expand hospital capacity, and hire additional health workers.
“That’s why we are asking for additional week or more for MECQ is really talagang to give time also for the national and local governments to be able to implement interventions,” Rye said.
“It’s very clear, ang very sad experience natin with this terrible surge yung pangangailangan sa expanded testing, tracing, and isolation,” he added.
The NCR and neighboring provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna are under MECQ from April 12 to April 30.
Under this classification, only essential trips are allowed and non-essential services and business are partially shut down.
Rye said that based on their studies, at least 2,000 additional infections in Metro Manila could be manageable but anything above this number could overwhelm the country’s hospital system.
At present, the NCR is still averaging 3,500 but this has already decreased from 5,500 before tighter quarantine protocols were implemented.
“Hindi pa puwede mag-transition sa GCQ (general community quarantine) as we speak kasi the trend can be reversed. Puno pa ang mga ospital,” Rye said.
“We saw a slight decrease this week but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Rye said. “This can be reversed if we are not careful, and if cases surge again, it will be more difficult to deal with as our hospitals are still full.”
Another OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David, in the same briefing, said the reproduction rate or the number of people infected by a patient in Metro Manila has gone down to 0.85 from more than 2 in recent weeks.
The positivity rate has also decreased to 18 percent, he said, but hospitals in the capital region could see easing in occupancy when daily cases go down to less than 2,800.
“What we’re seeing right now is significant improvement. Ang masasabi namin talagang successful ang community quarantines natin for the past several weeks. Yung Reproduction number natin ay bumaba, from more than 2 ngayon ay nasa 0.85 na lang,” David said.
“The numbers are trending in the right direction, magandang balita ‘yan. We have some LGUs na pababa na rin ang cases. Pero ang sabi nga ni Prof. Ranjit, hospitals are still full,” he added.
OCTA said that the panel of experts understands the need to also allow more workers to get back to their jobs and businesses to open in balancing health and the economy.
They, however, hope that this will not lead to more virus transmission if the government will implement a “hybrid” MECQ.
“So hopefully in one to two weeks ay mapababa natin ang cases per day sa NCR to less than 2,800. By that, magsisimula nang magkaroon ng easing sa hospital capacity natin,” David said.
“Once we have one or two weeks of this (MECQ), makikita natin na we will have a foundation to open up to GCQ na mas solid, solid enough for us to sustain for the next 3, 4 months. Tamang-tama, darating na iyong mga bakuna natin,” Rye said.
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce later tonight the new community quarantine classifications to be implemented in the country for the month of May.