'We should not be complacent': Second wave of COVID-19 still possible after ECQ, says expert

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 29) — Many scenarios can still happen after the first wave of COVID-19 infections, including a second surge of the fast-spreading disease, if the Philippines becomes complacent in its fight.

Dr. Jomar Rabajante, a mathematics professor of the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños, said on Wednesday that the government must prepare for its next measures should it decide to lift the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ in parts of Luzon on May 15.

"We should not be complacent. After that, many scenarios can still happen," Rabajante told CNN Philippines' New Day on Wednesday.

Rabajante was among the experts who participated in the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team study that found that quarantine and other safety measures undertaken by the government— were "relatively" successful in containing the spread of the infectious disease, as case doubling time also slowed down.

According to Rabajante, depending on government interventions, there could either be a continuous decline of COVID-19 cases or a second wave of infections slightly lower than the first surge.

"If we go back, lifting the ECQ and [continuing] our epidemic-friendly practices, we can expect a second wave probably a little lower than the previous wave but it will depend on our practices," he said.

"However, if we continue practicing good measures, good behavior, public etiquette, washing our hands, more testing, we might expect a continuous decline or probably a second wave with a peak that is not that higher compared to the first one," Rabajante added.

Citing recommendations of the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team, Rabajante said the government must ramp up efforts to widen the gap between the outbreak threshold and the actual cases, especially in the National Capital Region which has the highest upsurge of infections.

Local government units must also prepare for any worst-case scenario in the coming weeks.

"We tell LGUs, if you need this number of intensive care units, number of hospital beds, you need to be prepared on that. We should not be complacent in a sense that we are seeing less numbers, but we need to think for the future," Rabajante added.

National Task Force COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Tuesday that the government will aggressively hold a "massive and expanded testing" of suspected COVID-19 cases and frontliners on May 7, prioritizing the NCR, which he claims to be the "center of gravity" of the outbreak.

The government will also do extensive testing under other "red" or high-risk areas not later than May 15.

Galvez added that they are targeting 20,000 tests per day not later than May 15 and 30,000 tests per day by May 30, with a 24-48 hour period of release of results.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced last week that the ECQ in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and other high-risk provinces in Luzon will continue until May 15. The initial lockdown was due to end on April 30.

These other high-risk provinces are Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecijia, Pampanga, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Albay, and Catanduanes.

Meanwhile, all low-risk and moderate-risk areas will be under "general community quarantine" or GCQ until mid-May.

The Philippines has 7,958 COVID-19 cases to date. There are now 530 deaths and 975 recoveries from the infection.