Longer lockdown being considered

Health experts in the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious (IATF-EID) recommended the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) and four neighboring provinces.

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE Police officers question motorists at a checkpoint in Cavitex in Bacoor, Cavite on the first day of the lockdown in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces. PHOTO BY MIKE ALQUINTO

Dr. Althea de Guzman, head of the Department of Health’s (DoH) Epidemiology Bureau Covid-19 Surveillance and Quick Action Unit, said a one-week ECQ was not enough to bring down the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal in ECQ for one week until April 4 amid the spike in Covid-19 cases.

De Guzman said based on the projections by health experts, the number of infections would dip slightly after April 4, but might rise again after the lockdown is lifted.

Duterte was expected to announce later Monday the quarantine classification that will take effect starting April 5.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the President was also expected to announce his decision on the recommendation of the Department of Budget and Management to distribute cash assistance to residents in ECQ areas.

The country recorded 10, 016 Covid cases on March 29, the highest single-day rise so far.
The total caseload climbed to 731,894. Nearly 99 percent of the cases were mild, moderate or asymptomatic.

Recoveries, meanwhile, were at 603,213, while 16 people have died from the virus, for a total of 13,186 deaths.

The DoH is confident the ECQ in Metro Manila and nearby provinces will allow the health care system to take a respite after being swamped by Covid cases.

Intensive care unit (ICU) bed utilization in Metro Manila was at 76 percent, isolation beds at 70 percent and ward beds at 59 percent.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire bared during a briefing on Monday ICU that utilization in high-risk and critical risk areas ranged from 70 to 100 percent.

“We are choking, we are having full capacities in ERs (emergency rooms) and ICUs, gusto naming ma-manage ito (We want to manage this),” she said.

Projections from the DoH’s software, Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases, showed that without stricter measures in place, around 430,000 active cases would be expected by the end of April, including 350,000 cases in Metro Manila alone.

The ECQ, Vergeire said, would also free up isolation and ward beds in hospitals where most mild and asymptomatic cases are being treated.

The Health department aims to improve case detection, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine, as well as the enforcement of minimum health standards for a better Covid response, she said.

The department will look at the data week by week to see if the situation warrants an easing of restrictions, she added.

She rejected a proposal to test every single member of the population to bring down the positivity rate, saying it will only lead to indiscriminate testing.

“Kahit gaano kadami ang iyong tinest, as long as the transmission is ongoing at mabilis ang transmission, yung pagtaas ng positivity, hindi mo mako-control

(No matter how many people you test, if the transmission is fast and ongoing, you cannot reduce the positivity rate),” she said.