COVID-19 infections may reach 40,000 this month — UP team

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By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

CORONAVIRUS infections may reach 40,000 by the end of June based on the rate of transmissions, according to a team of researchers from the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Guido David, a mathematics professor from UP and part of the OCTA Research team, said the reproduction number of the virus in the Philippines is about 1.2, meaning it continues to spread.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 443 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 24,175.

The death toll rose to 1,036 after nine more patients died, while 270 more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 5,165, it said in a bulletin.

Of the new cases, 253 results were reported in the past three days, while 190 were reported late.

A reproduction number — the ratio of infections to recoveries — of less than 1 means there’s a flattening of the curve, he added.

In epidemiology, the idea of slowing a virus’ spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at a time is known as flattening the curve.

Countries worldwide including the Philippines have imposed lockdowns and asked people to observe social distancing to slow the virus spread.

The curve researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will get infected over time.

“The projection is 40,000 cases by June 30,” Mr. David said at an online news briefing. The reproduction number for Metro Manila is about 0.96.

Ranjit Singh Rye, a political science professor from UP and a fellow of the research team, said the government should scale up testing, tracing and treatment strategies.

He also said the government should take the reproduction number of the coronavirus seriously.

“It’s still a significant number, a number that the government must take seriously,” he said at the same briefing.

Mr. Rye said people should continue observing health protocols including wearing masks and practicing social distancing. The ideal testing capacity is about 15,000 daily.

The Department of Health said the country’s rated testing capacity is about 30,000 but the actual daily testing capacity is only 10,000 due to operational issues faced by laboratories.

“One could argue that we’re not testing enough but we have certainly improved our testing capability and capacity,” Mr. Rye said.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said Health Secretary Francisco T. III had approved the guidelines for the expanded targeted testing.

The expanded coverage will include frontliners in quarantine facilities, village health emergency response teams, prison and jail employees and social workers.

Pregnant women, people who undergo high-risk operations, detainees, institutionalized persons, people undergoing dialysis, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and those with immuno-compromised conditions like people HIV will also be prioritized.

Other frontliners would only be tested if they had close contact with probable and confirmed cases, Ms. Vergeire said.

Those who are vulnerable to contracting the disease will be tested only upon recommendation by the attending doctor.

Ms. Vergeire also said that under the guidelines, a repeat test is not required for patients to recover and be sent home.