If trend continues, Filipinos may ‘unmask’ before end of the year -- UP expert

There is a big chance Filipinos can start "unmasking" themselves and start living close to normal lives before the end of the year.


But for this to happen, University of the Philippines professor and OCTA Research Team fellow Dr. Guido David said people still need to not just sustain recent gains of stricter quarantine protocols but to double their efforts in following minimum health standards in this drawn-out battle against the coronavirus disease.

David said in Cebu City, once the country’s COVID-19 hotbed, numbers have been encouraging as its basic reproduction number dropped dramatically to as low as .6 from a high of 2 back in June.

“Yung nakita kasi natin sa Cebu na sinasabi nila nung una matitigas ang ulo (What we initially saw in Cebu was supposedly them being hard headed). Pero na-manage na din nila, parang two months na silang on the downward trend (Now they are able to manage it, they are in a downward trend for about two months). There is really a big decrease in their cases,” said David.

“Nakita din siguro natin na seryoso talaga itong problema na ito kasi pwede talaga tayong ibalik sa MECQ (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine). Possibly, sineryoso na din ito ng mga tao. (People probably saw the seriousness of this problem because there is always that chance we may revert to MECQ. Possibly, people are now taking this seriously),” added David during an interview with Manila Bulletin’s MB Now.

Metro Manila and a number of neighboring provinces were placed under MECQ from August 4-18, partly due to the spike in cases, but mainly because of the medical frontliners’ call for a "timeout."

David believes that while the current downward trend is the end result of the two-week MECQ, people have been quite successful recently in adjusting to the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) way of life.

“May part dito effects ng MECQ but I would think na post MECQ na din (ang effects) nito kasi naka-two weeks na tayo ng GCQ (Part of this is the effects of MECQ but I would think this is also the effect of post-MECQ because we’ve been under GCQ for two weeks already). And, hindi lang naman yung number of cases ang bumababa. Pati yung positivity rate bumababa na din at 12% sa Metro Manila. (And, it’s not only the number of cases that has been dropping but also the positivity rate in Metro Manila which is at 12%),” said David.

“It was as high as 19%. Kung wala na yung MECQ, posibleng tumataas pa yung positivity rate pero ngayon, bumababa pa rin naman siya. Tingin naman natin sustained naman yung trend na pababa mula nung MECQ papunta ng GCQ,” added David.

That percentage, David said, reached as high as 19% during the peak of the pandemic back in March.

Should this trend continue, David sees better days ahead for the country, specifically during the holiday season.

“Wala naman tayong sinasabi na imposible pero (We’re not saying it’s impossible but) most likely within the year or by the end of the year, may mask pa siguro sa (there may be mask in) general public areas pero (but) at least may mga (there will be) certain places na hindi na naka-mask (where there will be no masks). Pero mahirap pangunahan yun (But it’s hard to precede that), few months pa tayo (we are still a few months) before that so tignan muna natin yung (let’s first look at the) trends,” said David.

David is optimistic those who have been active of late, specifically those who have started to work on a regular basis outside of their homes, will not let their guard down.

“I’m hopeful pero siyempre yung mga (but of course those) numbers binabantayan natin lagi (we are always looking at it). Magkaroon lang ng (Should there be any) slight surge, we will serve a warning na din sa mga tao (to people) in case magkaroon tayo ng surge (a surge happens). Pero sana naman huwag mangyari yun (Hopefully that will not happen),” said David.