Ways the Philippines can fight the coronavirus contagion, according to a data scientist

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2020 02:52 AM

The almost empty streets of Bay City in Pasay City amid the enhanced community quarantine implemented in the whole island of Luzon on April 7, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - With the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) far from abating, the illness has yet to reach its peak in the Philippines.

As the end to the pandemic is not yet in sight, a mathematics professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños suggested multiple strategies to combat the fast-spreading disease.

In an interview on ANC, Dr. Jomar Rabajante called on the government and public to prepare for a "long-term war."

"This is unlike a typhoon where you have a typhoon now and there's sunshine tomorrow," he said.

To rein in the spread of COVID-19, Rabajante said the government must ramp up efforts to detect and isolate possible coronavirus carriers, in addition to strict containment measures.

Physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and wearing of mask in public must also be observed, he added.

Since emerging in Wuhan City in Hubei province, China last year, the virus has sickened 3,764 people in the Philippines, including 177 deaths and 84 recoveries.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected nearly 1.3 million people and killed more than 72,000 others, latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed.

The Philippine government also extended the lockdown in Luzon to April 30 to establish the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The enhanced community quarantine buys us time, but it doesn't mean that after April 30 we need to go back to our usual norm. We need to change strategies," Rabajante said.

Based on his forecast, he said the epidemic time in the Philippines could not also be asynchronous or would not happen at the same time.

"There could be different peaks in the different provinces," Rabajante said, adding that mobility of people should be monitored.

He also urged the government to check lower-income communities in Metro Manila, where many families live in cramped shanties and lack the means to protect themselves.

"We need to check more on them. They wouldn't know they are sick or they probably won't go to the hospital that's why they are not reported," Rabajante said.

Metro Manila, which has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the Philippines, is home to nearly 13 million people.

In March, Rabajante created an SEIR (Susceptible, Exposed, Infected and Recovered) model of COVID-19 for Metro Manila and predicted there could be 2,500 cases in mid-April.

"Now we're seeing that the detected cases are increasing we need to adjust our model," he said.

A study by the UP COVID-19 pandemic response team revealed that the peak of the curve is estimated to be between April to June.

Around 140,000 to 550,000 people are projected to be infected in Metro Manila, the report also showed. This includes undetected, mild and asymptomatic cases comprising 80 percent of the total tally.

The team also called for more open, transparent data and sharing of information.

"COVID-19 is not an invisible enemy. It leaves behind traces of itself, which we can use to get ahead of the curve and stop it in its tracks. But to get there, we have to gather and share as much data as possible, apply the best science available, and ultimately listen to what the numbers could tell us," it said.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv