Ateneo prof: Not true PH has flattened COVID-19 curve

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2020 08:04 PM

An Ateneo math professor doesn’t think the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines is slowing down. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—A mathematics professor from Ateneo de Manila University cautioned the public against believing that the country has already succeeded in “flattening the curve,” or slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

This was a reaction to some experts and the Department of Health saying that the country has started to do that, based on data of new COVID-19 cases in the country.

Flattening the curve refers to efforts, such as community isolation, to slow down an outbreak and make it more manageable. It also refers to how a line graph looks when the number of new cases daily is no longer increasing or has stayed low.

But Ateneo professor Dr. Felix Muga II said that, based on DOH data, the number of active cases is still increasing.

“Nagkakaroon pa rin ng increase pero mabagal ang pag-increase. ’Yung flat dapat parang table na,” Muga said during a virtual forum organized by Citizens’ Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (CURE COVID) on Friday afternoon.

(There is still an increase although the increase is slow. If it’s flat, it should look like a table top.)

Muga showed graphs that he made using the same data from DOH. A linear graph that plots the 5-day moving average of COVID-19 cases shows a slight upward trend in the past couple of weeks.

He pointed out that, even with the logarithmic version of the graph, which is often used to visualize if a country is flattening its epidemic curve, the upward trend is still visible.

“Kung talagang nagfa-flatten, ’yung pinakadulo talagang flat,” he said.

(If it really flattened, the end should really be flat.)

He said a good example would be the graph of South Korea.

ABS-CBN Data Analytics Head Edson Guido’s version of the logarithmic scale shows South Korea and Taiwan having flat lines, as opposed to countries such as the Philippines.

Muga pointed out that he expects cases to increase once the DOH processes its backlogs.

While there are 10,343 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the DOH logged 13,722 positive tests as of May 7. This means that more than 3,000 test results of unique individuals are still being validated and may be added to the list of confirmed cases.

Muga also shared that the reproduction rate of COVID-19 in the Philippines is still above 1.

A reproduction number is the average number of people that can be infected by one patient. This number helps health organizations determine if an outbreak will spread or if it is being eliminated. If the reproduction number is higher than one it means that the virus is still spreading.

Dr. Julie Caguiat of the Coalition for People’s Right to Health said during the same forum that this is why the Philippines should push for mass testing, as well as social protection for the poor.

“Alam naman natin ang bulnerable talaga ’yung higit na mahihirap, mga mahihirap na komunidad,” she said, adding that the tests should be free.

(We know that those in poor communities are more vulnerable.)

Caguiat said that, while her coalition is amenable to extending the enhanced community quarantine, the public should be asking what is being done by the government to combat the virus during the lockdown.

And if the lockdown is lifted, there should be safeguards.

Caguiat said that among her coalition’s demands are the hiring of permanent plantilla workers at health facilities, the increase in ventilators and personal protective equipment, testing centers for each province or region and test kits for one to two million tests.