A team of researchers studying the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines said fully re-opening the economy is still not recommended.
This was because the country's recovery from the pandemic would commence only if and when the curve depicting the number of persons infected by the virus has apparently flattened, according to Dr. Guido David of the University of the Philippines OCTA Research team said during a Laging Handa virtual briefing on Wednesday.
"The flattening of the curve doesn't necessarily mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still alive and spreading but it means that this is the start of the recovery process, this is the start of a downward trend as the number of cases is decreasing," David explained.
David, who is also a professor at the UP Institute of Mathematics, also emphasized that a flattened curve is "not irreversible" as there is still a possibility that there could be another surge or spike in the number of cases if there would be laxity in observing health and safety protocols.
The research team on Monday said that the country is likely to see a flattening of the COVID-19 curve by the end of the month or in September, as the transmission rate or "r-naught" was observed slowing down from 1.5 to 1.1, while the number of new cases being documented was also on the decline.
According to David, they are still seeing a downward trajectory of the r-naught which is expected to be below 1. He pointed out that flattening the curve and managing the pandemic is still a long process.
"Marami pa rin tayong bilang ng kaso, nasa 3,000 plus cases per day pa rin. Hindi pa tapos ang laban kapag flattened na ang curve. Sustained dapat ang efforts natin para mapababa pa ang bilang ng kaso. It can take several months pa bago natin ma-achieve yung gusto natin which is ma-manage ang pandemic," David said.
(We still have a lot of confirmed cases, at least 3,000 cases per day. The fight against COVID-19 will not end when the curve is flattened. We should sustain the efforts to further decrease the number of cases. It can take several months before we can manage the pandemic.)
"This is a collective effort. We have to sustain this momentum. It will take a while but we are expecting that by Christmas everything will be all right. Let us work together so we (could) have a happy end(ing) of 2020 and start 2021 with fresh energy and vibes," he added.
Meanwhile, UP professor Ranjit Rye, who is also a member of the research team, urged the government and the public to take advantage of this positive development to sustain the gains from the modified lockdown recently imposed in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
"Magtulung-tulong tayo at huwag magpabaya, mag-ingat pa para lalo nating ma-sustain yung gains na nakuha natin sa MECQ na napakamahal from the economic and social standpoint," Rye pointed out.
(Let us work together and do not neglect the protocols, be more careful so we can further sustain the gains from the MECQ which is very expensive from the economic and social standpoint.)
"Dalawa lang ang puwedeng mangyari -- lumaki ito ng lumaki at mawalan na tayo ng kontrol, masasagad na naman ang mga hospitals at medical frontliners at maraming mamatay, pero kaya nating ma-prevent ito kung magtutulungan tayo," he said.
(There are only two things that can happen - the case will increase even more and we will lose control. Hospitals and medical frontliners will be overwhelmed and many will die, but we can prevent this if we work together and help each other fight this pandemic.)