Granular lockdowns can be effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19 if more contact tracing and testing are done in high-risk areas, a member of the University of the Philippines COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team said Wednesday, warning that the daily tally could hit 40,000 a day by late September or early October.
“Based on our projections, the numbers could still be increasing up to the end of September to early October and we might reach 30,000 to 40,000 cases per day, reported through RT-PCR testing,” Professor Jomar Rabajante told ANC’s “Rundown.”
“We still did not include the undetected cases and those detected by antigen tests,” he said.
Rabajante said he believes granular lockdowns are better than region-wide or province-wide lockdowns.
“We’ve seen in the data that very wide lockdowns are not anymore effective compared to the 2020 and March 2021 ECQs,” Rabajante said, referring to the enhanced community quarantines imposed last year and early this year.
With granular lockdowns, Rabajante said health authorities can really target places with very high risk and a high clustering of cases.
However, to be successful, local governments will need to do more contact tracing and implement COVID-related rules strictly. More testing must also be done in areas under lockdown, he said.
Granular lockdowns, he added, will need more people to implement the rules.
“Sadly, I’m working with some LGUs and they don’t have people to do this,” he said.
The head of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI), however, said he doubts if the new alert system will be effective in bringing down new COVID-19 cases.
PHAPI President Dr. Rene de Grano on Wednesday told CNN Philippines they understand the need to shift to a new alert system to allow more economic activities, but he questioned the basis of declaring a general community quarantine with different alert levels based on COVID-19 case transmission and health care utilization.
“The problem I see is the basis for the levels. I’m not sure if health care workers were consulted on the new alert levels,” he said in Filipino.
He said hospital occupancy rate should not be the basis for the alert
level because some hospitals treat patients from other provinces.
De Grano also said the government’s data on transmission rate are still unreliable since contact tracing remains slow.
The Philippines logged 16,989 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the fewest in almost two weeks, bringing the total number of infections to 2,283,011.
Wednesday’s number of fresh infections is the lowest since Sept. 2, when the Department of Health (DOH) announced 16,621 cases.
The relatively low number of cases was due to lower laboratory output on Monday, Sept. 13.
The DOH also reported 214 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 35,742.
The DOH also reported 24,123 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,076,823.
There were 170,446 active cases, of which 85.4 percent were mild, 9.8 percent were asymptomatic, 0.7 percent were critical, 1.4 percent were severe, and 2.7 percent were moderate.
On Sept. 13, the Philippines was able to test 57,034 people, of which 25.9 percent tested positive for the illness.
Nationwide, 77 percent of the ICU beds, 69 percent of the isolation beds, 73 percent of the ward beds, and 57 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 79 percent of the ICU beds, 66 percent of the isolation beds, 73 percent of the ward beds, and 61 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
The DOH reported that, based on its data analysis inMetro Manila and other cities, 80 percent of new cases in the recent two weeks came from 11 percent to 30 percent of barangays.
The DOH added that the analysis supports the move to focus on imposing granular lockdowns on selected areas rather than wide scale lockdowns of entire provinces, highly urbanized cities, and independent component cities, which have hurt the livelihood of Filipinos.
“Additionally, wide scale lockdowns might no longer be effective since data shows that the majority of Filipinos in NCR were mobile during the enhanced community quarantine on Aug. 10 than the previous ECQ last April 2021 as more essential activities and workers were allowed,” said DOH spokesperson Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The DOH said that the country is moving towards more targeted and recalibrated actions towards high-risk activities, imposing localized or granular lockdowns at the household and barangay level and implementing targeted response strategies to prevent transmission and reduce strain on the livelihood of Filipinos.
The DOH urged LGUs to conduct active case finding, reduce the time for case detection to isolation, and improve vaccine coverage to lowerCOVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, the independent OCT Research Group said Metro Manila’s virus reproduction number dropped slightly this week even as the region continues to average more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases each day.
OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David said the reproduction number, which refers to the number of people that each case can infect, stood at 1.34 this week, down from 1.39 seven days ago.
David said the National Capital Region (NCR) had an average of 5,854 daily COVID-19 cases over the past week, with a growth rate of 11 percent.
The Pasay City government said it is preparing food packs and other essential items intended for residents to be affected by granular lockdowns while Metro Manila is under the Alert Level 4.
“We already prepared food packs and other necessary items to ensure that residents who will be placed under granular lockdowns won’t have any excuse anymore to go out of their households,” said Mayor Imelda Rubiano.
She said Pasay City Hall will remain fully operational with at least 20 percent on site capacity with the implementation of work-from-home and other flexible work arrangement schemes.
“We will not have a hard time adjusting even if the city and the entire National Capital Region are placed under Alert Level 4 since we have previous experience in implementing the system,” Rubiano said.
Pasay had imposed a localized lockdown in several barangays in March.
Also on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said all courts in the National Capital Region will remain physically closed even if the region has been placed under a general community quarantine with Alert Level 4 starting Sept. 16.
Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said all NCR courts will continue to operate online and conduct video conferencing hearings on pending cases.
Courts may be reached through their hotlines and email addresses as posted on the SC website, sc.judiciary.gov.ph.