Palace: Flattening of COVID curve stopped when economy reopened

Published July 16, 2020, 12:32 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The country began flattening the coronavirus curve shortly after the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) but such trend “did not continue” when government moved to gradually reopen the economy, Malacañang said Thursday.

Passengers travel on a jeepney with seat dividers to ensure social distancing in Manila on July 6, 2020, after thousands of jeepneys hit the road again after over three months since they were forced to stop operation amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque admitted that the cases of coronavirus have increased after the government relaxed the quarantine restrictions and increased testing efforts.

“Immediately after ECQ and MECQ, we noticed we have somehow experienced decline in the number of cases. In other words, we started we were starting to flatten the curve at some point,” Roque said over CNN Philippines Thursday.

“But unfortunately because of the opening of the economy and also because of the intensified testing, it did not continue. The flattening did not continue,” he added.

Roque, however, pointed out that such trend was not necessarily “negative altogether” since the expanded testing program allowed the government to track down, isolate, and treat patients with illness.

“Tremendous increase in actual testing being conducted and testing capacity has given us the means to detect where the enemy is, we now have the space for isolation and of course now we know better on how to treat them,” he said.

“So we have not actually flattened the curve, we slowed it down tremendously as a result of ECQ and MECQ but with intensified testing and I guess with the reopening of the economy, the cases increased anew,” he added.

The government placed entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine in mid-March to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The strict lockdown included mandatory home quarantine except for essential activities, suspension of public transport, work from home arrangements in most companies, travel restrictions, ban on large gatherings, class suspension.

By May, the government gradually relaxed the lockdown measures to allow the partial reopening of businesses and industries.

The country has been largely under modified general community quarantine (MGQ) until the end of the month.

Roque remained optimistic that the country can slow down the coronavirus  transmission and reduce the number of cases as the government ramped up testing, tracing, and treatment efforts as well as encouraged localized lockdowns in case of surge in cases. 

He appealed anew for public cooperation in health measures to avoid reverting to stricter quarantine classification. 

COVID patients are also encouraged to move from their homes to government quarantine facilities.

Local health workers will assist the patients in the transport to these temporary health facilities, Roque said.

“I think what we will see in the next few days is while the numbers of cases will increase over time it will slow down. The case doubling rate will slow  down because we are now putting mild and asymptomatic individuals who have no capacity to isolate themselves in their homes in healing centers, in Ligtas centers,” he said.

“Perhaps these next two weeks and we’re really hoping that it happens, we will see a significant decrease in the number of cases. We might even come close to actually flattening the curve if people take heed of the warning made already by the President that he will not hesitate to revert back Metro Manila in particular to a more stringent quarantine if need be,” he said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier took back his pronouncement the country has “successfully” flattened the pandemic curve in April, saying the county has only “bent” the curve.

He has attributed the surge in infections to expanded testing and community transmission as movement of more people is allowed.