MANILA - The OCTA Research Group on Saturday said a more gradual approach to easing quarantine restrictions is needed to prevent a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, as authorities eyed a shift to the lowest restriction level.
OCTA research fellow Guido David said their group is not against placing Metro Manila under modified general community quarantine, but added that the timing is still premature.
“Mas gusto natin medyo mas gradual para ma-balance natin 'yung risk factor saka 'yung economy,” David said.
(We want a gradual approach so we can balance the risk factors and the economy.)
Metro Manila mayors and the inter-agency task force leading the country's COVID-19 response have reached an agreement to place the National Capital Region, the country's pandemic epicenter, under MGCQ next month. By March, it would be a year since government enforced quarantine in the country in a bid to contain the virus.
Based on a simulation conducted by the group, David said that if Metro Manila is under MGCQ and hit by the same variant that affected Cebu City, it would take just 36 days for the region to return to its COVID-19 situation back in August, when an average of 2,400 cases were reported per day.
“Kasi ngayon sa Metro Manila naga-average tayo ng 400 cases per day. So 'pag tinamaan tayo ng ganung pagtaas ng cases, 36 days nandoon na tayo sa 2,400,” he said.
(Metro Manila is averaging 400 cases per day. So if we experience the same increase in cases, in 36 days we’ll be back at 2,400 cases per day.)
David said there is such risk, and that is why they are recommending a more calibrated easing of restrictions.
The group also observed a sudden increase in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, particularly in Pasay, Navotas and Malabon.
“Sa Pasay City dumoble from last week. From mga 23 naging 44 cases per day, mataas 'yan for Pasay City. In fact, 'yung attack rate nila lagpas 7 na which means nasa high risk na sila bigla. May nakita tayong pagtaas dito sa Pasay, sa Navotas at saka sa Malabon,” he said.
(Cases in Pasay City doubled from last week from about 23 to 44 cases per day, that’s high for Pasay City. In fact, their attack rate is over 7, which means they are already at high risk. We also noted an increase in Pasay, Navotas and Malabon.)
He said it was possible that the increase was due to a clustering of cases.
“Wala tayong sinasabing may variant o ano pero posibleng clustering of cases. Pero at the same time binabantayan natin 'yan ng maigi kasi we are concerned about the sudden increase, biglaan 'yan," he said.
(We're not saying that there’s a variant but clustering of cases is possible. But at the same time, we are monitoring this because we are concerned about the sudden increase.)
Pasay City on Saturday placed 33 of its barangays and one establishment under a 2-week lockdown due to high COVID-19 cases.
As of Friday, the city has recorded 7,461 confirmed cases, including 280 active infections.
David urged the public to continue observing health protocols like wearing of face masks and face shields even with the shift to MGCQ.
“Mas importante na sumunod tayo sa protocols kasi kung hindi, mas sensitive 'yung situation na may kumalat na konti possibleng mag-trigger 'yan ng isang surge sa Metro Manila,” said David.
(It’s important to follow the protocols because the situation is more sensitive, a possible infection could trigger a surge in Metro Manila.)
Local government units must also be given ample time to prepare for the shift as they are responsible for its implementation.
Likewise, he reminded that eased restrictions do not mean that the virus is no longer there.
“Kailangan patuloy pa rin messaging natin the virus is still there, the variant is also there kaya mag-ingat tayo lalo ngayon habang hinihintay natin yung bakuna,” he said.