Experts seek 2 week MECQ as healthcare systems 'challenged' by COVID-19 cases

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2021 02:57 PM | Updated as of Mar 27 2021 03:12 PM

Experts seek 2 week MECQ as healthcare systems 'challenged' by COVID-19 cases 1
Workers from the Manila Sanitation Department disinfect the streets of Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila on March 15, 2021. The city of Manila placed 6 barangays- 185, 374, 521, 628, 675, and 847 -under localized lockdown from March 17 to March 20 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The OCTA Research group is asking the government to consider placing areas under the NCR Bubble into a 2 week modified enhanced community quarantine, as healthcare systems continue to be overwhelmed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

The group said this less than a week into placing Metro Manila and neighboring areas under a 2-week general community quarantine with additional restrictions. 

In messages sent to health reporters, OCTA Research fellow Ranjit Rye said there is a need to lower utilization rate to "save lives and livelihoods," while suggesting that transportation will still be allowed and that poor families will be provided with aid. 

"Right now, OCTA’s projection continues to be accurate. We are now witnessing longer queues for admissions, and the longer these patients wait for proper medical attention, the higher their risk of succumbing to this infection," Rye said, while stressing the need for a "time out" for health workers. 

 

Government officials previously shunned the idea of placing Metro Manila and nearby areas under MECQ, saying it could affect the economy with the suspension of public transportation and the temporary closure of some businesses. OCTA Research had also recommended placing the country under soft MECQ earlier on. 

But OCTA research group believes that the economy can only jumpstart if transmissions are lessened, Rye said. 

"OCTA is of the conviction that it is only when we are able to mitigate transmissions that we will be able to truly jumpstart the economy," Rye said. 

The group leaves it to the pandemic task force if they wil expand the MECQ to other provinces not included in the NCR Bubble. 

The reproduction number has as decreased from 2.04 to an average of 1.94 this week, according to OCTA Research. With the current reproduction number or the rate of transmission between individuals, another OCTA fellow Butch Ong said it would take 10 weeks to see the effects of localized government restrictions.

It earlier also estimated that cases would rise between 12,000 to 13,000 come April. 

“If we are going to maintain the localized lockdown and the change of r number is 0.1 we might see an improvement in about 10 weeks and that is long for our healthcare workers or healthcare system so baka ngayon siguro puwedeng i-consider ang (so maybe now we could consider) stricter community restrictions like an MECQ,” he said in a public press briefing. 

OCTA fellow Guido David in an earlier interview with Teleradyo said COVID-19 cases could go as high as 13,000 daily, while urging the government to extend the implementation of the NCR Bubble in a bid to decrease the reproduction number of the virus. He also added that it is too early to say if the interventions has affected the trend. 

Ong said the increase in COVID-19 cases has been "challenging" the country’s healthcare system, and that the group recommends tighter restrictions. 

"’Yung ating (our) hospital capacity is being challenged yung ICU occupancy and bed occupancy is nearing the red flag. So it is really an increase that is challenging our healthcare system and one of the solutions could be tighter restrictions in community mobility. It could take longer for us to see a sudden decrease. Perhaps now we should consider tighter restriction,” Ong said. 

The government on Friday tallied 9,838 COVID-19 cases, the fourth time the Philippines tallied record-high COVID-19 case counts in 7 days. Experts and government officials have previously attributed the surge in cases to non-compliance with health protocols and the emergence of new variants. 

Ong said the call to consider placing the NCR Bubble under MECQ - the second strictest of 4 quarantine classifications - stems from the significant decrease in daily case counts for 4 months when Metro Manila was placed under MECQ in August. 

"Nagkaroon tayo ng MECQ and we saw a significant decrease noong December we might need a timeout na rin and MECQ ito ang stand ng OCTA research in our discussions in the last few days," Ong said. 

(When we had a MECQ there was a significant decrease last December. We might need a timeout and MECQ. This is the stand of OCTA Research in our discussions in the last few days.) 

OCTA also recommended stepping up testing capacity, and improving data transmission to help know more about the current rates of COVID-19 transmission.