The OCTA Research Group warned Friday against further easing COVID-19 restrictions in the National Capital Region even after coronavirus transmission showed signs of slowing down.
The warning was raised two days before the Metro Manila Council is set to meet Sunday to discuss its recommendation to the government's COVID-19 task force on the possible quarantine classification of the capital region for May, its chairman Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez told Teleradyo.
Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal are under modified enhanced community quarantine – the second toughest lockdown level – until April 30.
Olivarez said they would meet with health experts to assess the COVID-19 situation in every local government unit.
Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, an OCTA Research fellow, said the reproduction number should be less than 1 for several weeks, adding a reproduction number of 1 or higher indicated sustained transmission of the virus.
Metro Manila’s reproduction number is currently at 0.99.
“We urge the national government, as one possible benchmark for changing quarantine levels, is not to exit MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) until at least the R is less than 0.9 in a sustained manner,” Austriaco said in a webinar organized by the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.
“As (OCTA fellow) Prof. Guido (David) pointed out, we’re currently somewhat unstable and the reason why it’s unstable is because not all the LGUs (local government units) are decreasing and so you always have the possibility that as some of the LGUs recover there will be an outbreak in one LGU that will spill over to the adjacent LGUs,” he said.
The average daily cases in the NCR in the past seven days is 4,200 compared to 5,200 cases two weeks ago, said David.
“How fast we decongest our hospitals depends upon the sustained reproduction number that we are able to maintain in the next few weeks,” Austriaco said.
Cost to economy
The month-long lockdown is expected to cost the economy about P300 billion in economic losses despite the partial lifting of restrictions to businesses and establishments in the last half of April 2021, the Department of Trade and Industry said.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the shifting of the restriction level to MECQ from ECQ might have tempered losses, but not enough to really get the economy up and about.
“The rough estimate of GDP loss during MECQ can be around P120 billion,” he said, noting that during the strictest lockdown in the first half of April 2021, losses to the economy was estimated at 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product or about P180 billion.
Adding to the stressed economy was an equally stressed labor sector which was estimated to have lost as much as P83 billion in terms of lost wage values.
The Philippines logged on Friday 8,719 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 979,740, the Department of Health reported.
Active cases stood at 102,799, which is 10.5 percent of the total. Of the total, 96.4 percent were mild; 1.3 percent were asymptomatic; 0.7 percent were critical; 0.9 percent were severe; and 0.58 percent were moderate.
The DOH also reported that 13,812 persons recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 860,412, which is 87.8 percent of the total.
The department recorded 159 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 16,529, which is 1.69 percent of the total.
The Food and Drug Administration said Friday 19 of the 24 deaths after getting inoculated were not related to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Five other cases are still pending investigation, the FDA added.
Ten of the fatalities got CoronaVac (Sinovac) while 14 received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Although it is sad that there are reported deaths, our evaluation shows that they are not related to vaccination,” FDA Director General Eric Domingo said.
Over 1.3 million individuals have been vaccinated in the Philippines as of April 20.
Out of the 24 who died following their vaccination, 11 were found to have been infected with COVID-19, eight had cardiovascular or cerebrovascular illness and three reportedly suffered another infectious disease.