By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz and Analou De Vera
The rate of transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila and other high-risk areas remains high, experts from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman said as they urged the government to continue with the imposition of significant restrictions in these places.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila has hit 9,481, while the number of deaths has already reached 651, based on the Department of Health (DOH) data as of May 26.
The cases in Metro Manila constitute almost 65 percent of the total number of coronavirus infections in the Philippines.
In a recent study by Professors Guido David and Ranjit Singh Rye, with research associate Ma. Patricia Agbulos, the team pointed out that Metro Manila and Cebu City have “very high” numbers of COVID-19 cases and “high” rate of transmission.
“The reproduction number of NCR, which is oscillating at around 1.0 rather than showing a discernible decrease, is a sign that it might be premature to relax the MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) to GCQ (general community quarantine),” Rye said in an interview over GMA on Wednesday.
The current reproduction number means there is still a transmission of the disease.
Rye’s team had earlier pointed out that mobility and proximity to other people are the main drivers of the pandemic.
“Considering that NCR is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and in fact Manila, Pateros, and Mandaluyong are top three among all cities and municipalities in the world, reducing mobility and proximity in NCR is a challenge,” the UP experts said.
It added that social distancing and cooperation from the public are very important now that Metro Manila is under MECQ.
Rye also noted that the latest data of the DOH has not yet included around 7,000 individuals who have tested positive based on reports by 36 testing centers nationwide.
Other high-risk areas
The UP experts also noted that the risk levels of the pandemic in Batangas, Davao City, and Zamboanga City remain significant, advising the government to closely monitor these areas in the coming weeks.
“We urge government to also monitor the situation in Zamboanga City, Batangas and Davao City as the risk levels of the pandemic in these areas are still significant,” they said.
Citing as an example the sudden increase in the number of cases in Cebu City, they told the government that: “We cannot afford to be complacent, even in areas where the pandemic appears to be contained, because it takes just one spreader to start a second wave of the pandemic.”
They urged the government to also closely monitor Samar and Oriental Mindoro, as a number of new cases appeared in these provinces recently.
“Even in areas under GCQ or those not under community quarantine, vigilance is still needed in order to ensure that any new cases are immediately detected and new outbreaks prevented. Our goal ultimately is not just to flatten the curve but to bend it downwards,” the team said.
Stay at home
Meanwhile, an official of the World Health Organization (WHO) advised the public that it is still better to stay at home amid the easing of community quarantine measures in many areas of the country to prevent COVID-19 cases from increasing.
“It is very important to stay at home for the public to prevent further spread of the infection. As we are seeing, the number of newly reported cases is not rapidly decreasing even after the strict implementation of the community quarantine. And then, I think we need to be very careful,” said Dr. Takeshi Nishijima, technical officer of the WHO-Western Pacific Region Office during the Department of Health (DOH) press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
The DOH reported 350 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, raising the total number of cases to 14,669.
The health department also announced 89 new recoveries and 13 more deaths, bringing the tally of recoveries to 3,412 while the death toll is at 886.
Nishijima said that the public must always observe other precautionary measures.
“At this stage, it is very, very important for us to be aware of that potential of having the rise in the number of new cases again. I personally think that it is very important to stay at home and practice known pharmaceutical interventions like physical distancing, cough etiquette and all those kind of things,” he said.
“In the Philippines, we are seeing the new number of cases which kind of stabilized. We are hoping that it will decrease in the future. For that, I think we need to be prepared to continue what we do right now,” he added.
Nishijima also assured that the international body will continue to provide assistance to the Philippines in its fight against COVID-19.
“WHO is very much committed to continue to support the Philippines and the DOH and the people here,” he said.