MANILA — The UP OCTA Research Group has amended its projection for COVID-19 cases by the end of the month, seeing 220,000 total infections instead of the initially projected 250,000 - a "good result" because of the two-week stricter lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“If we hit 220,000 total cases by the end of the month that’s actually a good result for us because that means we’re really maybe we are really slowing down the pandemic," UP mathematics professor Guido David said during a virtual forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
David explained that while they did project 250,000 cases by the end of August, it was their estimate in case Metro Manila remained under the more lenient general community quarantine (GCQ).
The capital region, along with nearby provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna, were placed under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from August 4 to 18 on the appeal of exhausted health workers in the frontlines of the virus fight.
The worst case, per the group's projection after the MECQ, is 230,000, David said. As of Friday, total cases in the Philippines had reached 182,365.
"So worst case, we hit 230,000. Right now it’s looking like we might miss it by a little bit, maybe 225,000 or 220,000,” he said.
David added that they actually recommended to the government an MECQ scenario until the end of August. This would have brought down the projection to just 210,000 cases by the end of the month.
He said this recommendation was based on how the virus spread was controlled after the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Cebu when cases surged.
“They (Cebu) went to ECQ for 1 month after the surge in cases. They were having a surge in cases and the reproduction number, which is the average number of transmission of each individual, was about 2. One month of ECQ they were able to bring down the reproduction number to less than one,” he said.
“And right now they are still less than one even if they are in GCQ. That’s actually the kind of story that we want to see.”
Unlike other groups, David and the rest of the UP OCTA Research Group uses the reproduction number or R naught as the basis of their projections. A reproduction number of more than 1 means that the infection is spreading to more people since one infected person can infect one or more people.
David said Cebu was able to use the time under ECQ effectively, bringing down the number of additional cases from 300 per day to just 90 per day.
“That’s a huge decrease. And once they decrease it to let’s say 50 cases per day and even lower, then they are definitely on their way to reopening the economy. Because they can manage such a small number of cases. We hope the same thing will happen with Metro Manila,” he said.
To bring down the number of cases, Metro Manila’s GCQ should “be a lot more stringent than the last GCQ that we had," David said.
“More testing, contact tracing, isolation should be properly done and then localized lockdowns should be properly implemented,” he said.
David said they continue to send their studies to the government.