'Modified' lockdown extension needed to flatten the curve: gov't special adviser


Posted at Apr 07 2020 08:58 AM | Updated as of Apr 07 2020 03:22 PM

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MANILA - The enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon should be extended but modified in order for the country to gain from the current lockdown, one of the government's special advisers on the COVID-19 pandemic said Tuesday.

The virus' reproduction curve, or its transmission to the community, is flattening but it is only "shortlived," according to University of the Philippines executive Vice President Ted Herbosa.

"We just moved what we call the epidemic peak, highest point of where transmission will be, a little further to the right of the graph.
So we need to gain this success and continue with it," he told ANC.

"We’re intending to recommend to the chief implementor for an extension because that way we can benefit from the gains of this enhanced community quarantine."

Herbosa said among the modifications he would recommend is the universal wearing of masks.

"There's talk of allowing essential activities to have free flow of goods and services so that the communities that are vulnerable will not suffer so much," he said.

The current projection of the epidemic's peak will be in May to June, Herbosa said, citing data from UP's researchers.

"There are models that say the peak will be in late April or mid May or even up to June. It all depends on the public health interventions that our govt will be implementing and how sociwty will follow all those measures," he said.

"If the measures are followed directly, probably our peak will be much much later and much much lower, allowing our health system to cope."

It would take 45 to 75 days in order to flatten the pandemic curve, Herbosa said.

"Basically the ECQ, we've moved our peak to the right of the graph, that’s allowed us to build more PUI (persons under investigation) hospitals. We’ve also built up our capacity to do testing for COVID-19. The key now is to identify the PUIs and isolate them in what we call PUI hospitals," he said.

Some 600,000 up to 1.2 million people in the Philippines will be affected at the peak of the pandemic, requiring some 39,000 hospital beds and with 9,000 patients requiring intensive care, Herbosa said.

Half of these will be asymptomatic, while 80 percent will show mild symptoms. The remaining 20 percent will require hospitalization, he added.

"That’s our big problem. This will burden our hospital bed capacity, which is actually happening now," he said.

"We will max out and the consequence of maxing out hospitals is that other disease may not be treated well in any emergency departments if they are full of COVID patients waiting to be treated."

As of Monday, the Philippines has recorded 3,660 cases of COVID-19, including 163 deaths and 73 recoveries.