What is a 'circuit-breaker' lockdown, and why is OCTA pushing for this method?

Published July 28, 2021, 1:58 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz


Independent research group OCTA has been calling for a two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown in Metro Manila starting August 1 to stop the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

OCTA Research fellow and University of the Philippines (UP) professor Ranjit Rye explained that the “circuit-breaker” lockdown is a “go early, go hard” strategy.

He added that the term is being used by the group to prevent from preempting the government’s position on the issue.

“The government will deal with the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) decision. We want them to do that but we want them to realize that there is a problem as far as COVID in the NCR (National Capital Region) is concerned. We also want them to appreciate the intent of OCTA to provide some sort of preemptive, proactive approach to prevent the catastrophic Delta surge from happening,” Rye said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, July 28.

Molecular biologist-priest Nicanor Austriaco, also an OCTA fellow, further explained that the two-week circuit breaker lockdown aims to “shut down” the mobility of people to stop the virus from spreading, as well as to conduct “intensive” contact tracing to identify and isolate every COVID-19 positive person.

“It is very difficult for LGUs to do intensive contact tracing where the reproduction number is six to eight per person if people are moving constantly within the cities,” Austriaco said.

The circuit breaker lockdown will also allow the government to accelerate vaccinations in Metro Manila and achieve 30 percent Delta resilience in the population.

“The NCR is very close to this 30 percent Delta resilience. It is expected to enter Delta resilience in the next few weeks. A circuit breaker lockdown will allow us to achieve this level of population protection. It will slow viral transmission,” he added.

Austriaco also proposed shortening the Sinovac two-dose interval from 30 days to 14 days and AstraZeneca two-dose interval from 12 weeks to eight weeks to be able to reach population protection faster.

He cited that the Turkish trial published in The Lancet showed that 83.5 percent protection is achieved with this schedule for the Sinovac.

For AstraZeneca, studies have shown that this schedule is still effective and responds to the Delta threat, Austriaco said.

“In my view, it is not a question of whether or not we will have a hard lockdown. Instead, it is when and for how long. An earlier lockdown is a shorter lockdown,” he added.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion backed OCTA’s proposal saying: “If the government, DOH (Department of Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque, push for two-week lockdown, we will support it.”

“If it happens now, I think if we have to do it, let’s do it. Let’s prepare for it. We have to save the unvaccinated,” he added.