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UP researchers: Premature to ease quarantine in ‘high-risk’ capital

It may be premature to ease the Metro Manila quarantine because the capital remains a high-risk area for coronavirus infection, a group of researchers from the University of the Philippines said in a forecast report published on Tuesday.

“If quarantine decisions are solely based on disease transmission and other epidemiological risk factors, then based on available data, we recommend that the national government continue the [modified enhanced community quarantine] in the [National Capital Region] and consider the same in other high-risk areas,” the group said in the report.

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The report showed that there was almost no change in the week-to-week number of new coronavirus cases in Metro Manila in the last 10 days, or from May 16 to 25.

The core team for the report sponsored by OCTA Research is composed of UP professors Guido David from the Institute of Mathematics, Ranjit Rye from the Department of Political Science, and Maria Patricia Agbulos, OCTA research associate.

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Short count

The researchers questioned why 7,119 people nationwide who had tested positive for the new coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory disease COVID-19 had not been included in the official count of cases of the Department of Health (DOH).

They noted that 21,154 had tested positive based on reports by the 36 testing centers nationwide as of May 24, but the official case count of the DOH was only 14,035.

The researchers also pointed out that from May 16 to 22, the number of new coronavirus cases in the cities of Makati, Las Piñas and Pasay increased substantially by 170, 60 and 58 percent, respectively.

They said it was possible that easing quarantine restrictions in the metropolis could lead to larger increases in new infections in the three cities.

The group urged the government to review the minimum health standards and quarantine measures in high-risk areas, but balance the health risks and economic impact of the pandemic.

Doubling time now 7 days

On Thursday, the DOH reported 539 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national total to 15,588. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire attributed the large increases in new cases in recent days to the “validation” of positive tests, but did not say when those tests were taken and when they returned positive.

Speaking in an online forum, Vergeire said the case doubling time had slowed to seven days, a significant improvement from two to three days before the Metro Manila lockdown in March.

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With the slower doubling time, Vergeire said she was confident the government could handle the spread of the coronavirus after easing quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila. —WITH A REPORT FROM TINA G. SANTOS

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TAGS: Coronavirus, COVID-19 Philippines, ECQ, GCQ, Metro Manila, pandemic, Quarantine
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