As restrictions have been eased in public transport and tourism, the OCTA Research group cautioned that there is a risk of another surge in COVID-19 cases if safety protocols will not be strictly observed.
Dr. Guido David, a member of the research team, said on Wednesday that COVID-19 cases in the country will likely increase again as many people have been allowed to go out now.
"Malaki ang risk na magkaroon ng surge ulit. Nakikita natin tumataas na ang mobility, dumadami na ang tao sa labas, at yung curfew hours at age limit ng pwedeng lumabas ay nabago na," David said in an interview.
(There is a high risk of having a surge again. We see that there is an increase in mobility and the number of people going out. The curfew hours and age limit of those allowed to go out have also been adjusted.)
While the opening of the economy is "inevitable," the University of the Philippines (UP) professor urged those in the "unnecessary sectors" to avoid the resumption of its operations for now
As the national government has eased several restrictions, David said that the responsibility to manage the COVID-19 transmissions is now in the hands of the local officials, as well as the public which he said are all now frontliners.
"Kahit binago ang curfew at ibinaba na ang age limit ng mga pwedeng lumabas, nasa tao pa rin yun kung lalabas sila. Nasa kanila na ang responsibility," he said.
(Even if the curfew was changed and the age limit has been adjusted, it is still up to the people if they will go out. It is now their responsibility.)
According to David, we will be seeing the effects of easing COVID-19 restrictions within the next one to two weeks.
"We are on the side of caution, lalo na kumakaunti ang kaso. Ang sa amin sana ay hintayin na lang sana natin na kumaunti pa lalo kasi nasa 900 cases per day na lang tayo sa Metro Manila. Hindi malayo na bumaba pa yan sa 500 to 600 kung sususundin lang natin ang mga ginagawa natin nung mga nakaraang buwan," he explained.
(We are on the side of caution, especially that the case is declining. For us, we should just wait for it to decrease even more as we only now have 900 cases per day in Metro Manila. This can further lower to 500 to 600 cases if we will just follow what we have been doing in the past months.)
"Nakikita rin namin, actually. Although pababa pa rin ang bilang ng kaso, yung pagbaba niya ay bumagal na, hindi na katulad nung September na mabilis ang pagbaba," David added.
(We noticed too, actually. Although the number of cases is still on a downward trend, it has slowed down, unlike in September where the decline was rapid.)
With this, the OCTA Research Team fellow emphasized that they will not be surprised if there will be an increase in the number of cases in the capital region, adding that there is also an "uptick" in cases in neighboring provinces of Rizal and Cavite.
UP Professor Ranjit Rye, also a member of the research group, earlier said that another surge could be prevented if the local government units (LGUs) and the public would do their roles to ensure that health measures are still being followed.
For the LGUs, Rye said that they should increase the testing capacity, as well as the isolation and contact tracing efforts and continuously monitor the health situation in their area.
Meanwhile, Rye urged the public to continue observing the minimum health and safety protocols such as the proper wearing of face mask and face shield and maintaining physical distancing when going out.
Compliance with these measures should also be monitored by the LGUs, while the private sector was urged to also help in making sure that the workplaces are safe for employees returning to their jobs.
"Para hindi magkasurge, we have to do our roles. Matagal pa po ang laban against COVID-19 kaya hindi pa po tayong pwedeng magkompyansa at magpabaya," Rye added.
(To avoid another surge, we have to do our roles. We still have a long way to go in this fight against COVID-19 so we can not be too confident and be neglectful.)
The OCTA team is an independent and interdisciplinary research group that has been studying the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines. It is composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni with contributors from the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College, USA.