UP expert: Still premature to ease quarantine restrictions nationwide

A research expert from the University of the Philippines (UP) said on Monday it is still premature to ease quarantine restrictions nationwide despite the downward trend in COVID-19 cases.

In this photo taken on September 19, 2020, people wearing face shields queue up at a public market in Manila. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Dr. Guido David, a member of the UP-OCTA Research, said easing restrictions now might cause a big loss in the country's progress in the pandemic.

“Hindi pa ngayon, kasi more than 1,000 cases pa rin tayo per day. Marami pa rin yon (We can’t afford to ease restrictions yet because there are still more than 1,000 cases per day. That’s still a lot),” David told DZMM on Monday.

Aside from the number of cases, David said there are still many hospitals that still have a high occupancy rate.

“Even though bumaba , mga nasa 60% na lang . below 70%, pero mataas pa rin yan. Ideally sana mas marami pa yung headroom nila para in case magkaroon ng possible surge ma-accommodate ng hospital ‘yan (Even though the occupancy rate in hospitals has gone down to 60%, that’s still a high number. Ideally, hospitals should have more headroom so that, in case there will be a surge in cases, it can accommodate patients),” David said.

The UP expert said there is “always a risk” in changing or easing interventions and protocols, that is why it’s important to know when to take such risk.

“Mas maganda sana na mapababa muna natin ang kaso bago natin i take ‘tong risk na magkaroon ng surge. Kung magluluwag tayo ang recommendation natin, ay pag aralan mabuti ng government kung ito bang pagluwag ay risky sa pandemic (It will be better if we wait for the cases to go down further before we take the risk of having a surge in cases. If we are going to ease restrictions, our recommendation is for the government to carefully study if doing such will be risky),” David said.

David, however, said he is seeing a lowering of cases into half by next month, particularly in Metro Manila.

“Baka sa end of October, baka nasa 500 cases na lang tayo per day, mas manageable yun, and kung 500 cases tapos less than yung occupancy sa hospitals, mas mababa na, mas madali na tayong mag-take ng risk na magluwag, dahil nga kumbaga may allowance na tayo (By end of October, the number of cases will probably be at 500 per day, and that’s more manageable. And if we have 500 cases per day, and we also have less occupancy in hospitals, then it will be easier to take risks, to ease restrictions, since we will already have an allowance),” he said.

The UP Octa Research group predicted that there will be 310,000 to 315,000 COVID-19 cases in the country by the end of September, and 380,000 to 410,000 cases by the end of October.