THE Philippine healthcare system could collapse unless Filipinos strictly comply with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order for a Luzon-wide lockdown and similar quarantines imposed by other provinces, according to a political consultancy firm.

In a statement, Publicus Asia, Inc. noted that the country only has 106,000 hospital beds, and an overload of confirmed infections would weaken its healthcare system.

“Metro Manila and perhaps even the entire Philippines, which has a national hospital bed capacity of only 106,000, is headed towards a potentially debilitating overload of local and national health care systems as the rate of transmission of COVID-19 cases remains at a sharp upward trajectory,” it said. “Therefore, it is evident that immediate action must be taken to reduce COVID-19 exposure risk by massive amounts.”

Publicus Asia said the Philippines does have the financial or technical capabilities to adopt the mass testing and individual isolation strategy employed by South Korea to arrest the spread of the virus.

“The most feasible and proven strategy available would be to implement widespread lockdown policies such as those implemented in Hubei, China and Italy,” the consultancy firm said, citing its “data-driven report.”

It said conducting business-as-usual operations in Metro Manila without any restrictions on travel, work, school and outings, along with a lack of deliberate social distancing would cause an overwhelming majority of Metro Manila residents to test positive for COVID-19 in less than a month, assuming a moderate infection rate of 10%.

Meanwhile, creating an environment in Metro Manila with the lowest possible exposure risk would slow the spread of the virus more than nine times to 150 days or five months, it said.

But as stringent as the enhanced community quarantine for Luzon may be, “it still does not reduce exposure risk down to the minimum Level 1, Publicus Asia said.

Global estimates indicate that only 20% of COVID-19 cases are severe enough to require in-patient treatment in hospitals, it said.

This would equate to a demand of 24,998 hospital beds in Metro Manila on a single day for treatment of COVID-19 cases, it said. The metro has an overall bed capacity of 29,000, it added, citing the Health department. — VMMV