MANILA, Philippines – COVID-19 restrictions being enforced in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces should not be eased yet despite the declining spread of the viral respiratory disease, the OCTA Research Group said Friday.
OCTA Research Fellow Nicanor Austriaco said the NCR’s current reproduction number is at 0.98 from April 16 to 22.
He stressed that the less than one reproduction number should be sustained for several weeks before lifting the community quarantine restrictions.
“You have to sustain the R below one for at least several weeks, and this will take a careful planning with the length of the MECQ,” Austriaco said in an online briefing.
“We urge the national government, as one possible benchmark for changing quarantine levels, is not to exit the MECQ until at least the R is less than .9 in a sustained manner,” he added.
OCTA noted that the average daily cases in the NCR in the past seven days are now at 4,200 compared to 5,200 cases recorded two weeks ago.
However, Austriaco said this is still “somewhat unstable” because not all local government units in the NCR have reported decreasing cases.
“You always have the possibilities that as some LGUs recover, there will be an outbreak in one LGU that will spill over to the adjacent LGUs,” he said.
“We are looking for a consistent pattern of decrease throughout all the 17 LGUs for a significant period of time before we know we have successfully passed through the surge,” he added.
Austriaco also emphasized that hospitals also need to be decongested before restrictions can be further eased.
“How fast we decongest our hospitals depends upon he sustained reproduction number that we are able to maintain in the next few weeks,” he said.
The NCR and four provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna have been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine until April 30.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that the government is not yet satisfied with the current decline in cases.
It also remains unclear on whether the MECQ in the NCR Plus will be lifted or extended after April 30 as the Inter-Agency Task Force is still evaluating the current COVID-19 situation in the country before it submits a recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)