Experts need another week of ECQ


MANILA — The OCTA Research Group recommends another week of enhanced community quarantine in the NCR Plus—Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan—to sustain the downtrend of new COVID-19 infections as the the extension expires today.

“President Duterte is weighing the pros and cons before making his final decision regarding the quarantine classification of the National Capital Region Plus area,” says Malacañan.

President Rodrigo Duterte is looking into reports on health care utilization rate as he weighs the pros and cons between extending quarantine or opening the economy.

“The Chief Executive would like to review and check pertinent information such as the Health Care Utilization Rate (HCUR) of the aforesaid area,” says presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.

The OCTA group’s findings confirm that the two-week ECQ lowered the reproduction number of new cases from 1.88 last week to 1.23 for this week. It also resulted in Metro Manila reporting negative growth in daily cases from 03 to 09 April, which was nine percent lower than the previous week.

“Be that as it may, the reproduction number for the NCR remains above 1, meaning that significant viral transmissions continue,” the report reads.

“Moreover, the average daily number of new cases of COVID-19 in the NCR+ is still very high at 5,000 a day. A continuing concern is that hospital capacity in the region and in the bubble remains at critical capacity, with some hospitals already maxed out,” OCTA says.

Extending the ECQ for another week will be able to further slow down the surge, decongest the hospitals and relieve the pressure on healthcare workers, the group points out.

“Opening up the NCR+ prematurely would be a significant risk as it could accelerate the surge again,” it says. “However, if ECQ extension cannot be considered for socioeconomic reasons, we are suggesting a minimum of two weeks of MECQ (modified MECQ).”

With data from the Department of Health, OCTA says most cities in Metro Manila have shown decreasing number of new infections over the past week.

“This is very encouraging, although it is too early to say if these local government units are now starting on a downward trend, especially given that testing was 20 percent lower during the Holy Week,” says the report.

“Unfortunately, new COVID-19 cases in the NCR will remain high, between 4,000 and 6,000 per day, while the reproduction number remains at 1 or higher.”

The research group recommends that the government continues its efforts to expand testing, tracing and isolation to accelerate the exit of NCR Plus from ECQ.

“Government should also work together with the local government units and the private sector to accelerate the vaccination of our citizens in the NCR bubble. We need more vaccination sites and more personnel and volunteers in the vaccination centers to speed up the process,” its report says.

“In particular, we need to expand the number of vaccination sites in the NCR to accommodate more individuals and reduce the possibility of super-spreader events due to crowding in vaccination centers. We suggest considering large and open public and private structures, such as university gyms and even malls, apart from public schools, as alternative vaccination sites,” it adds.

Meanwhile, OCTA recommends the recruitment of more doctors and nurses to augment the existing teams doing vaccination in NCR Plus.

Unlike Metro Manila that recorded a decrease in new cases, some regions have reported a spike in cases in the past week, including Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region, and the Ilocos Region.

“NCR, Calabarzon and Central Luzon account for nearly 80 percent of the new COVID-19 cases, with another 10 percent from CAR and Region II. High hospital utilization rates were observed in the top five regions,” reads the report. (JSM/JuanManila)

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