'Longer' MECQ extension will allow NCR to recover faster — OCTA

Published April 28, 2021, 2:20 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Extending the implementation of modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for a longer period may allow Metro Manila to “heal” better, stabilizing the downward trend in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and lowering the healthcare demand in the region, OCTA Research Group said on Wednesday, April 28.

OCTA fellow Prof. Ranjit Rye said the group is hoping that the recommendation of the Metro Manila Council to allow some businesses to open during the implementation of a “hybrid” MECQ “would not create risks for further transmission of the virus.”


“On the other hand, ang suggestion namin (our suggestion) is if we have a longer MECQ, we can heal po, we can stabilize yung (our) numbers natin, both at the level ng (of) reproduction number and number of daily cases,” Rye said in the Laging Handa public briefing.

“The longer that we have this MECQ, kahit na modified siya, kahit na hybrid siya, ito na ang magiging exit strategy natin sa quarantine na ‘to. (The longer that we have this MECQ, even if it is modified, even if it is hybrid, this will be our exit strategy in this quarantine),” he added.

OCTA has been pushing for an extension of MECQ for “utmost two weeks” to ensure that the daily reported cases, reproduction number, and healthcare utilization will go down.

“So mas mainam talaga mas matagal yung healing period natin. Pero naintindihan namin na talagang kailangan balansehin ang health at ekonomiya. (So it’s really better that we have a longer healing period. But we understand that health and economy really need to be balanced),” Rye said.

Once we have one or two weeks of this makikita natin we will have a foundation to open up the GCQ na (that is) solid enough for us to sustain for the next three, four months. Tamang-tama darating na ang mga bakuna natin. (Just in time for the arrival of our vaccines),” he added.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said the COVID-19 trend in Metro Manila has significantly improved due to the “successful” implementation of “community quarantines” for the past weeks.

“Yung reproduction number natin bumaba from a high of 2, more than 2, ngayon nasa 0.85 na lang. Average number of cases sa NCR 3,500, this is 36 percent decreased compared to the peak natin 5,500 average number. The positivity rate 18 percent na lang, it’s [also] decreasing.

David said Metro Manila’s COVID-19 reproduction number has dropped from around 2 before the implementation of enhanced community quarantine in late March to 0.85, as of April 28.

Likewise, the average number of daily cases in NCR has decreased by 36 percent from 5,500 cases during the peak of the surge to 3,500 cases at present.

The positivity rate in NCR also decreased to 18 percent.

“The numbers are trending in the right direction. Magandang balita yan. (That is good news),” David said.

While several local government units have reported downward trends, David said hospitals remain at full capacity.

“Based sa pag-aaral namin they will still remain to be full. Maraming magpapaadmit as long as we’re having more than 2,800 cases per day. (Based on our study, they will still remain to be full. Many will still be admitted as long as we’re having more than 2,800 cases per day),” he explained.

“Hopefully in one to two weeks mapababa natin yung number of cases per day natin sa NCR sa less than 2,800. By that magsisimula na magkaroon ng easing sa hospital capacity natin. (Hopefully in one to two weeks we can reduce the number of cases per day in NCR to less than 2,800. By that we will start to have an easing in our hospital capacity),” he added.

Rye said the MECQ extension will give the national and local governments ample time to implement interventions.

“I think it’s very clear ang (the) very sad experience natin (that we had) with this terrible surge yung pangangailangan sa (the need for) expanded testing, tracing, and isolation,” he said.

“The additional week or two will give us a chance to hire our contact tracers, organize them. Open up new quarantine facilities and for short- to medium-term, to hire more healthcare workers to expand the healthcare system capacity,” he also said.

“Malaking hamon itong pagreverse ng surge, hindi ito mangyayari overnight. (It’s a big challenge to reverse the surge, it won’t happen overnight). It will take us a month to get back to the numbers in January, maybe a month or two. That will require significant cooperation from all of us,” he added.