Experts want NCR under GCQ until end-October

Published September 27, 2020, 12:02 PM

by Gabriela Baron & Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

Surge in COVID-19 cases still possible if restrictions are relaxed

A public health expert on Sunday noted a downtrend in the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country but urged the government to keep epicenter Metro Manila under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) until the end of October.


In an interview over DZMM, Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said the situation in the National Capital Region (NCR) has improved but cautioned that a surge is still possible once the region further relaxes restrictions.

“Ang numero naman natin ay gumaganda, Yung reproductive number, normal dapat less than 1. Sa buong Pilipinas, less than 0.82. Sa NCR is 0.73. So these are good numbers (Our numbers are improving. Our current reproductive number is less than 0.82 nationwide, and 0.73 in the Metro Manila. The ideal is less than 1),” Leachon said.

The figures are below the ideal “1,” which mean the virus could “eventually die out.”

“Though may improvement sa numbers, ang request ng Metro Manila mayors, ang gusto nila, mailagay muna sila sa GCQ ng isang buwan para maisaayos nila ang kanilang pagkukulang sa testing at contact tracing, para sa ganun maganda ang Pasko (Even if the numbers are improving, Metro Manila mayors are recommending their respective areas to be under GCQ for another month so they can improve their testing and contact tracing to prepare for the Christmas season),” Leachon added.

“Kasi kung luluwag ngayon, lahat okay na, permissive socio-economic activities, tapos alam naman natin ang cultural quotient ng Pilipino, pag may event lang naglalabasan na, baka magka-surge ito, at aabot sa Christmas season (If we start to ease restrictions, many Filipinos will go out, and we could see a surge in daily virus cases),” he underscored.

The health expert said he is favoring GCQ extension until the end of October to “pave way for a very nice” Christmas season.

“Kunwari bumaba ng mga 0,6 or 0.5 [reproduction rate], ang NCR magiging masaya Pasko natin. Rather than ngayon, lumuwag tayo, tapos balik na naman tayo sa GCQ or ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine) sa Nobyembre, mahirap naman yun (If we could lower our virus reproduction rate to maybe 0.6 or 0.5, we would have a happy Christmas. Rather than easing restrictions and eventually reverting to GCQ or ECQ in November, that will be difficult),” he added.

Leachon noted the Philippines’ positive rate is “still high” with almost 3,000 new cases daily.

“Kung magtitiyaga tayo nang isang buwan pa, magiging mga 2,000 [cases] or kung mas maganda pa, less than 1,000 (If we could still endure another month-long GCQ, we can possibly lower our new daily cases to 2,000 or 1,000),” he added.

On Saturday, researchers from the University of the Philippines OCTA Research Team submitted their recommendation to the IATF for another month-long GCQ in Metro Manila.

Less strict quarantine

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said yesterday some Metro Manila cities may actually appeal for less strict quarantine classifications due to their improving COVID-19 situation.

Nograles made the statement days before President Duterte makes a decision on the new COVID-19 quarantine classifications by Tuesday.

In a Facebook Live video, Nograles said based on the preliminary findings of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, some cities in Metro Manila are actually improving in terms of transmission and positivity rates. He said they will make the recommendation to the President on Monday so he can make a decision by Tuesday.

“Based sa mga nakikita natin na mga numero sa iba’t ibang siyudad ng Metro Manila, meron tayong mga siyudad na gumaganda na ang mga numbers, ‘yung indicators niya (Based on the numbers we see from the different cities in Metro Manila, there are some cities whose numbers or indicators are looking good),” he said.

“Ibig sabihin bumababa na po ‘yung mga kaso ng COVID, bumababa na po ‘yung rate ng transmission, bumababa na po ‘yung sinasabi nilang attack rate, nakikita nila na ‘yung hospital capacity medyo lumuluwag na, at nakikita naman po nila na ‘yung rate of transmission ay nags-slowdown na (We see the number of cases, transmission rate, and attack rate slowing down; and their hospital capacity opening up more),” he added.

Nograles, IATF co-chair, said this allows some cities in Metro Manila to actually appeal for less strict quarantine classifications.

“Technically speaking, some of the cities puwede mag-appeal ng (can appeal for a) lower classification. ‘Yung maganda yung mga nakikita nating numero (Those with the improving numbers),” he said.

However, the Palace official acknowledged that the region’s mayors have always pushed for a consensus.

Metro Manila is still under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) until Sept. 30 after a two-week reversion to the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) last month.