PH clearly not yet flattening the curve compared to Thailand, other countries, says Ateneo prof

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2020 05:17 PM

MANILA — A professor of the Ateneo de Manila University said on Wednesday that the Philippines is clearly not flattening the curve for the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“Ganu’n pa rin. Ang sa tingin natin ay hindi pa rin nagfa-flatten ang curve maski ’pag titignan natin ang June 15,” said mathematics professor Felix Muga II during a virtual forum organized by Citizens’ Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (CURE COVID) on Wednesday afternoon.

(That’s how we still see it — that the curve is still not flattening even if we look at June 15 figures.)

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

Back in early May, Muga said this already amid the Department of Health and its experts insisting that the country has already flattened the curve. After that, a spike in cases was again observed.

However, the DOH attributed this to delays in validation. It also started reclassifying new cases into “fresh” and “late” cases. Fresh cases refer to those whose test results were released within the last 3 days, while late cases are those whose results were released four days previously or earlier.

Asked if differentiated those in his graphs or used the more accurate parameter of Date of Onset of Illness, Muga said it was impossible since only a third of the COVID-19 cases in the DOH data had complete information. 

Muga pointed out that even by looking at the graph of active cases — or those who have not yet recovered and are still infected with COVID-19 — the Philippines still is not curbing the spread of COVID-19.

In comparison, Muga said Thailand’s new cases and active cases graphs are good examples of flattened curves. As he mentioned before, the graph should show an almost straight line at the end. 

The DOH has said that the country is on its way to flattening the curve because its critical care utilization rate, or the use of its intensive care units, is still at a low percentage.

However, Muga pointed out that flattening the curve, based on the Johns Hopkins University, refers to “reducing the number of new COVID-19 cases from one day to the next.”

Previously, the DOH also boasted of the lower reproduction number of COVID-19 in the country. The reproduction number of R0 shows the transmission potential of a disease. If it is higher than 1, the disease is still spreading and if it is lower than 1, the rate of the epidemic curve is flattening. 

But at 1.2, based on the recent University of the Philippines study, it means the virus is still spreading in the Philippines.

Muga said the R0 should be at 1 or lower if the country is indeed flattening the curve.

Muga and other experts at the CURE COVID forum agreed that a big hindrance to the country’s COVID-19 response and data analysis is the various backlogs in testing and validation.

Muga pointed out that about 7,000 test results have yet to be validated as confirmed cases or repeat tests.

He also pointed out that cases in the country’s most populous cities remain relatively high and only the likes of San Juan and Davao City have seen a substantial decrease in cases.