Luzon lockdown slowed COVID-19 spread: UP institute

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2020 04:07 PM

16 areas might still need quarantine after April 30

A woman walks past a mural with the message, “Stay home, save Lives” in UP Balara, Quezon City on Black Saturday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A nearly month-long lockdown of the Philippines' main island of Luzon slowed the spread of COVID-19, an institute of the University of the Philippines said Monday as it identified areas that might need to sustain quarantine measures beyond April.

The enhanced community quarantine, which started in Metro Manila on March 15 and expanded to the rest of Luzon starting March 17, yielded "relative success," along with other interventions, in containing the respiratory virus, said the UP Resilience Institute. 

"What took 3 days for the total number of cases to double now takes about 6 days to happen," it said in a policy note. 

Based on this trend, it said there could be 9,000 to 44,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country by the end of the month, when the lockdown in Luzon ends.

The health department in March said cases could spike to 75,000 in 3 months, based on modelling estimates.

This figure from a policy note of the UP Resilience Institute shows a time-series analysis of COVID-19 cases, which now take 6 days to double.

The Philippines as of Monday confirmed 4,932 cases of COVID-19, with 315 deaths and 242 patients who recovered. 
 
Based on data as of April 10, the UP Resilience Institute reported an estimated fatality rate of 5.38 percent and a virus reproduction rate of 0.6398, which meant that the Luzon lockdown was "effective." 

"The goal is to keep bringing the reproductive number down to lower than 1 through continued medical and non-medical interventions," said the institute. 

Singapore brought its reproduction rate close to 1, but later testing pulled this up. South Korea, it said, also slashed the reproduction through "consistent increased testing coupled with contact tracing." 

This figure from a policy note of the UP Resilience Institute shows a time-dependent reproduction number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea, with 95-percent confidence intervals for March 9 to April 10, 2020.

WHICH AREAS SHOULD EXTEND LOCKDOWN? 

Despite its success, the quarantine of vast swaths of the country might "not be sustainable over the long run" because prolonged restriction on movement of goods and services "can unnecessarily paralyze local economies," the UP institute warned. 

The "best recourse" after April 30 is a "graduated activation of enhanced community quarantine," depending on the level of risk, it said.

"Under this set-up, provinces (or even lower-level LGUs) may be put under ECQ depending on how close or far they are to an estimated outbreak threshold. This suggestion is made based on our analysis on the trajectory of spread and the severity of impacts across LGUs, which varies depending on the onset of local transmission, population density, and age-group distribution," the institute said.

It noted that Metro Manila is already in outbreak status of the disease.

According to its report, areas which face at least 90-percent probability of an outbreak and should continue their enhanced community quarantine include the following: 

  • Aklan 
  • Bataan 
  • Batangas 
  • Benguet
  • Bulacan 
  • Cavite 
  • Cebu 
  • Davao Del Sur
  • Laguna
  • Nueva Ecija
  • Pampanga
  • Pangasinan 
  • Quezon 
  • Rizal 
  • Tarlac

The institute recommended "an automated LGU data collecting system" so that it would be "easier to project the rate of spread and identify locations of hotspots and outbreaks." 

"The findings and suggestions outlined here are proposed to help the country's efforts to curb the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic," the institute said.

As decisions are expected soon for the resumption of economic activities, "these localized metrics, which can be done up to barangay level," may be useful in crafting policies, it added.