UP, UST researchers predict 85,000 COVID-19 cases in PH by end-July

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) - The number of COVID-19 cases in the country may surge to at least 85,000 by end of the month, with a total of 2,000 deaths, according to the projection by a group of researchers from the University of the Philippines (UP) and University of Santo Tomas.

UP OCTA Research noted that this is a 15,000 to 25,000 increase from the initial projection of 60,000 to 70,000 cases by end of July.

The group calculated the possible number of additional infections based on the R naught, or the reproduction rate of the virus. This represents the number of people who may be infected by a confirmed case. Ideally, this should be one or less, as anything higher means there is still significant community transmission.

UP OCTA Fellow Professor Guido David said the projection has changed when the reproduction rate of the virus increased in the past two weeks.

From 1.28 back in June, the reproduction rate jumped to 1.75. David said a small difference in R naught could cause a big impact.

“It may seem like 0.3, 0.4 pero (but) this could cause change of tens of thousands of cases,” David said.

“The main factor is increased transmission, community transmission in NCR and also some new hotspots, emerging hotspots like parts of CALABARZON nagiging hotspots ulit (becoming hotspots again), sa Leyte, nagiging hotspots (becoming hotspots again). NCR is the main driver of this.”

Metro Manila projection

The researchers also presented scenarios to the government—if Metro Manila will remain under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ), or if it will revert to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ).

Under GCQ, UP OCTA said the cases in Metro Manila may reach 40,000 by end of July and over 80,000 by end of the following month. Death toll could hit 2,800 by August 31.

But Metro Manila’s Covid-19 cases could be less if it is placed under a stricter quarantine like the MECQ. Researchers said the reproduction rate could go down to 1.1 by end of July, resulting in 35,000 cases by end of the month and 56,000 cases with only 1,900 deaths by end of August.

Researchers also warned that lifting the quarantine will very likely increase the community transmission. Without restrictions, cases in Metro Manila will hit 45,000 this month and over 120,000 with 4,200 deaths by end of August.

“Kasi (because) in Cebu the R was about 2, thirty days ago, at ngayon nasa 1.14 na (it is already at 1.14). So they’re close to flattening the curve. So the surge is not happening now in Cebu, it’s actually slowing down. The surge is happening in NCR,” David said.

“We presented two scenarios: GCQ but with deaths and then we can have the economy running, or MECQ, we’ll slow it down but the economy will be compromised a little bit.”

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ News.PH, David noted that restricting the movement of people is not the only way to fight the spread of the virus.

“We can solve this in other ways like having social cooperation. We all do our parts. Wearing face masks is important, it is not just a government advise, but it is important to protect ourselves and in case we carry the virus, it helps us not spread the virus to other people,” he said.