By Vann Marlo M. Villegas , Reporter

LOCAL coronavirus infections may have slowed after a Luzon-wide lockdown that started on March 17, an expert from the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Medicine and Public Health said on Tuesday.

It now takes about four days for COVID-19 cases to double from one to two days before, Ateneo associate professor John Wong said at a news briefing.

“We would expect that the flattening would continue, meaning we will have very few additional cases,” he said.

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 Philippine 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 Department of Health (DoH) reported 199 more infections yesterday, bringing the total to 9,684.

The death toll climbed to 637 after 14 more patients died, it said in a bulletin. Ninety-three more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 1,408, it added.

Of the 199 new cases, 87% or 173 were from Metro Manila, 0.5% or one were from Central Visayas and 12.5% or 252 came from other regions, DoH said.

Mr. Wong, who is part of an inter-agency task force against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), said the flattening of the curve became evident around April 1, two weeks after the lockdown.

It takes 4.6 days for COVID-19 cases to double in in Metro Manila, 5.8 days for the rest of Luzon, 5.4 days in Visayas and 5.3 days in Mindanao, Mr. Wong said in a report.

It now takes 5.7 days to double the death toll nationwide, 5.6 days for Metro Manila, 7.8 days for the rest of Luzon, seven days in the Visayas and 7.7 days for Mindanao, he said.

Mr. Wong noted that aside from expanding the country’s health care and testing capacities, the government should also enforce social distancing measures, cough etiquette and hygiene to contain the pandemic.

“If and when we lift the enhanced community quarantine, they will know how to behave and would be able to prevent or delay another resurgence,” he said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said people should not become complacent.

“The moment that we lift our restrictions, there would be a resurgence,” she said at the same briefing. “We need to continue this into the new normal.”

Meanwhile, DoH said 1,819 health care workers have been infected with the virus, 350 of whom have recovered and 34 have died.

The agency said 117,853 people have been tested —12,367 were positive and 105,226 were negative.

The positive results were more than the confirmed cases because they still need to be validated and processed.

DoH said 43 provinces had not recorded COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, 23 of which had no infections since the outbreak started.