MANILA - The number of coronavirus infections in the Philippines may reach past 85,000 by the end of July, with 2,000 deaths, based on the current rate of reproduction of cases, the latest study by researchers from the University of the Philippines released this week showed.
The researchers noted in their Forecast Report No. 12, dated July 16, 2020, that there have been an average of 2,000 new COVID-19 cases in the country in the most recent week, showing an increase of almost 50 percent from the previous week.
For Metro Manila, the number of cases is projected to hit 40,000 by end of July, and more than 80,000 with 2,800 deaths by end of August, under a General Community Quarantine classification.
The researchers classify Metro Manila as a "high-risk area" and the country's epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Other "high-risk" areas are Cebu, Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, Leyte and Basilan.
The researchers cautioned the government against "prematurely downgrading the quarantine status" in the high-risk areas, especially in Metro Manila and Cebu, noting the prevailing trend in transmission of the disease.
It recommended the continuation of stricter quarantine strategy in Cebu City to sustain the gains already achieved, and to sustain GCQ in Metro Manila with provisions for "more aggressive and effective localized lockdowns and stricter border controls."
The localized lockdowns in Metro Manila should consider the "health aspect of compliance, and hence should avoid projecting it as a peace and order matter."
The researchers proposed that to address the steep rise in the transmission rate in Metro Manila, the government may consider placing it under modified enhanced community quarantine for 14 days.
"The primary benefit of the MECQ option for the NCR is that, it will curtail mobility and slow down the rate of transmission of the virus... The MECQ option... will also buy time for its already burdened hospital infrastructure to cope with current challenges," they said.
The study cited Cebu's implementation of lockdown measures, estimating that the whole province "will be in trajectory towards flattening its own epidemic curve" if the strict lockdown measures continue for another 14 days.
Cebu City was recently placed under MECQ, from ECQ. The reproduction number of COVID-19 cases in Cebu City under ECQ has decreased, the study noted.
The researchers believe the said option may work for Metro Manila, but it will also come with "significant socioeconomic costs."
Implementation of stricter lockdown protocols should be augmented with "increased testing, aggressive tracing, improved treatment and the establishment of more quarantine and other isolation," the researchers said.
The Philippines has logged 65,304 confirmed cases, as of Saturday, of which, 41,464 are active.