Increased mobility to cause uptick in COVID-19 infections: OCTA Research

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2020 10:21 AM | Updated as of Oct 30 2020 11:10 AM

Commuters head to the relcoated bus loading and unloading area along Agham Road in Quezon City on October 15, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - There will be an increase in COVID-19 infections as public transportation reopens in many parts of the country, but this should be manageable if done gradually, OCTA Research Group said Friday.

The uptick can be expected as an increase in mobility means an increase in chances of transmission, said Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, a research fellow and professor of biology at the University of Sto. Tomas.

"It should not be surprising that we should expect an uptick of cases in the weeks to come. But this is not something to be scared about, this is something that we have to be ready for. We’ve been preparing for this for the last 6 months," he told ANC's Headstart.

"There’s going to be an uptick, but the uptick doesn’t have to overwhelm or drown us," he said.

The increase will be "gradual," and it will soon be apparent "whether or not we can in fact deal with this uptick," he said.

"We build a floodwall and we can see the wave is coming. We don’t know what will happen when the wave hits the wall. Our hope is that the wall is strong enough and tall enough that it will not be overwhelmed when the wave arrives," he said.

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Austriaco said decreased distance between passengers in public transport meant having more people on board, which also leads to "more probability for the virus to move from one person to another."

When the Department of Transportation reduced the space between passengers to 0.75 meters from 1 meter in September, there was an uptick in the daily number of cases in Metro Manila, he noted.

But the "jump in mobility" last month is "more significant" than the gradual reopening of public transport that is currently happening and the government is also "in better shape" in terms of preparedness, so Austriaco believes the same surge would not happen.

"The pattern can be explained best by suggesting that increased mobility led to that uptick that we saw…There’s no reason to be scared of an uptick, it just has to be managed properly because what we do not want is an explosive increase in cases," he said.

"If we do it too quickly, if we do it in a very short period of time, the uptick will be so large that our increased capacity on the ground will not be able to deal with it…My hope is we will be ready when an uptick happens," he said.

The Philippines on Thursday recorded 1,761 new coronavirus infections, pushing the nationwide caseload to 376,935. Total recoveries was at 329,848.

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