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UP study says quarantine extension might ‘flatten the curve’

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Last April 7, President Rodrigo R. Duterte accepted the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to extend the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) until April 30.

An extension of the ECQ, coinciding with other non-medical interventions, would greatly help flatten the curve of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the country, a recent study of the University of the Philippines (UP) COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team reveals. 

According to the study, the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila could range from 140,000 to 550,000 infected people, with the number of active cases to peak somewhere between end of April to June, before it flattens and wanes in the following months. The estimate, tabulated by a group of mathematicians from different UP campuses, also projected three different scenarios.

To prevent the worst case scenario of active cases totally overwhelming healthcare capacity, the study urges government decision makers to implement appropriate strategies and calibrate short- to long-term interventions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. It also noted that hospital bed capacity and other healthcare metrics can be projected based on the proportion of severe cases (currently pegged at five percent). 

The study noted how simultaneous non-medical interventions — work and school shutdown, requirement of face masks (even homemade masks with filter), washing of hands, and social distancing — can help reduce the spread of the virus thereby giving the Philippine healthcare system some much-needed time to treat infected individuals.

“Community quarantine buys us time to beef up our healthcare system’s capacity, while limiting the reach of the disease. Thus, a modified, location-specific quarantine scenario can be explored in light of public healthcare realities on the ground (e.g. number of ventilators and hospital beds) and possibly different peak periods across local government units (LGUs) throughout the country,” the study recommends.

The study also encouraged each LGU to improve the simulations further by providing essential data like hospital information on the number of people tested, recovered, and other critical facts for modeling. These can be collected daily at the barangay level through online survey forms.

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