MANILA - A public health expert said Wednesday he supports the call to extend the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and 4 surrounding provinces to curb fresh COVID-19 outbreaks that were placing strain on the country's health care and contact tracing systems.
"We need a timeout to refresh our contact tracing [and] to build new isolation and quarantine facilities. This will allow us to exit the lockdown with decreasing but still high numbers that we can manage properly without risking another surge," Fr. Nicanor Austriaco of OCTA Research Team told ANC.
Hospitals in the capital region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal have reached critical level in COVID-19 bed occupancy.
On Monday, the country's daily coronavirus infections hit another record high after it passed 10,000 for the first time since the pandemic began. The Philippines has 124,680 active cases or patients deemed infectious, the highest among Southeast Asian nations.
For the molecular biologist, it would take another week to see the full effect of the renewed hard lockdown measure in the country's case count and health-care utilization rate. The ECQ took effect on March 29 and will end on April 4.
"We, my colleagues and I in OCTA, are in support of the other experts who would like the government to extend this for at least 1 more week because it will take 14 days to starve the virus from new victims by isolating people from each other," added Austriaco, who teaches biology and theology at the Providence College in the US.
Due to sheer volume of fresh infections, the country's contact tracing system has also collapsed, he said, quoting contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong.
An extension of ECQ, the strictest in the country's 4 levels of lockdown measure, will decrease infection rate as it further limits people's movement amid the presence of more infectious coronavirus variants, he added.
The Department of Health on Tuesday recommends an extension of ECQ in the so-called "NCR Plus" to battle the outbreak, which has killed more than 13,000 people.