Community quarantine helped slow down COVID-19 spread, new study shows

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 14)— The enhanced community quarantine imposed over Luzon and other regions in the country helped slow down the spread of COVID-19, a new local study revealed.

Experts from the University of the Philippines' COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team said the quarantine— along with other safety measures undertaken by the government— was "relatively" successful in curbing the spread of the infectious disease, as case doubling time also slowed down.

"Time-series analysis shows it now takes a little longer for the number of confirmed cases to double in number," the team said in a policy note released Tuesday. "What took 3 days for the total number of cases to double now takes about 6 days to happen."

The study noted that based on estimates, the Philippines would have logged around 9,000 to 44,000 possible cases of COVID-19 by the end of April.

"In general, this indicates the relative success of the ECQ— along with other interventions—in containing the spread of the virus."

The study also attributed the effectiveness of the quarantine measures to the current mortality rate in the country, which stands at 5.38 percent with a reproduction number of 0.6398 (lower than 1).

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesperson of the government's COVID-19 Task Force, also backed the data, noting that the country would have reported hundreds of thousands of COVID-related deaths if a lockdown was not implemented.

The whole of Luzon has been placed under quarantine until the end of April with the country still battling the pandemic. Several local government units in other regions followed suit.

Under enhanced community quarantine measures, movement of residents— expect for essential workers in select sectors— is restricted in an effort to stop the virus' spread. Mass transportation was also banned.

'Not sustainable in the long run'

The group of experts from the state university, however, noted that a region-wide quarantine may not be sustainable in the long run.

"Prolonged restriction on the movement of goods and services over a large area (i.e. region-wide) can unnecessarily paralyze local economies," it added.

The team then proposed for a "graduated activation" of the quarantine after April 30— particularly for COVID high-risk areas.

It suggested that only provinces and other local government units reporting numbers of cases near the outbreak threshold may be placed under ECQ. Those with less cases can instead practice measures like social distancing and contact tracing, among others.

The study also pushed for the rollout of a nationwide barangay-level COVID-19 data, saying real-time information makes it easier "to project the rate of spread and identify locations of hotspots and outbreaks on a daily basis."

Latest DOH records show the Philippines has 4,932 cases of the contagious disease, with 315 fatalities and 242 recoveries.