UP team: COVID-19 trend not a game
UP researcher Prof. Ranjit Singh Rye said what their team does “has never been a game” where there are winners and losers, adding there was no reason to be happy when the country has registered 10,000 cases in two weeks up to the end of June.
UP team: COVID-19 trend not a game
Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star) - July 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines (Corrected 3:13 p.m.) — The trend of COVID-19 cases in the country gives no reason for Filipinos to raise their fists in the air in exuberance, according to the University of the Philippines research team, whose projections Malacañang claimed the Philippines beat the other day.

UP researcher Prof. Ranjit Singh Rye said what their team does “has never been a game” where there are winners and losers, adding there was no reason to be happy when the country has registered 10,000 cases in two weeks up to the end of June.

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, also of the OCTA Research team, said it was more important to look at the trend that figures from the government were showing rather than the target being hit, as the former was more representative of the pandemic happening in the country.

June 30 data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed that there were already 47,347 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 666,678 individuals tested nationwide. Subtracting the 37,514 confirmed cases will yield a 9,833 gap between the number of confirmed cases and the number of positive individuals.

While the number of those who tested positive may not all turn out as confirmed cases after validation, it gives an approximation of what the trend could be in subsequent days.

“If there are 46,000 individuals positive for COVID-19 but there are only 38,000 that are validated, which number is more representative of the pandemic happening in the country?” Austriaco told “The Chiefs” the other night on Cignal TV’s One News.

“I think it’s important that we emphasize that it’s more important to look at a trend rather than a target. And the concern that many of us have is the trend is going up,” he added.

The research team’s statements came on the heels of presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s ecstatic welcoming of the country’s 37,000 cases the other day, “beating” the UP OCTA research team’s projection of 40,000 coronavirus cases nationwide by the end of the month.

The latest projection by the group of researchers estimated that cases may hit 60,000 by end of July if there is significant community transmission across the country.

In exuberance, Roque had said: “Let’s do it again in July! So we are winning.”

“We stand by our forecast, we missed it by less than 6 percent which is kind of good, but we’re also very sad that we’ve reached this far,” Rye said.

“While we respect the exuberance of our very hardworking and burdened spokesman, we should be more cautious. The message is: ‘the pandemic is here’ and it’s spreading and we need to work together and there’s so much work to be done,” he added.

Roque, however, remained unfazed as he set a goal to monitor the Philippines’ ‘successes’ against the virus. “Every month now, I’m going to keep on doing it and I really don’t care about the critics because, I think, people should be reminded that although there are mathematical models, we could still control what happens in our lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Guido David, also part of the UP OCTA group, explained that the trend “slightly” slowed down because it did not reach the 40,000 prediction – mainly because of the government’s move to revert Cebu City back to the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the continued rise of infection.

Had the government relaxed quarantine protocols in the territory, cases in Cebu City would have risen by 3,000 or 4,000 more cases, according to their projection.

“And we would say, we are over the projection and that means we were not able to manage the spread in Cebu,” the professor said.

“In some sense, there is some positive (outcome) there because the government made some right decisions, but we need a lot more positive (outcomes) to be able to beat this virus,” he added.


Researchers also warned of the upticks being observed in several territories in Luzon and in Southern Philippines, citing mobility and proximity as some of the drivers of the high transmission rate.

Among these, according to Rye, were Leyte, Bulacan and Calabarzon, whose quarantine restrictions have since been relaxed – meaning, a significant amount of mobility through public transportation has been allowed.

The researchers also cited several areas which previously had little to no COVID-19 cases that now have a significant number of infected patients. These include Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Misamis.

The reasons why upticks were observed were, according to them, ramped-up testing in select areas, the real surge of cases in Cebu and the mobility, proximity and noncompliance in several areas that has caused the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“We’ve been pointing out that while we have been scaling up testing in NCR, it was important to do so everywhere else and especially in hotspots,” Rye said.

Discrepancies explained

The DOH yesterday reiterated its explanation about the discrepancies in the daily testing data for coronavirus disease.

According to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the number of “unique individuals” tested pertains to those who have been tested for the virus.

She said the number of individuals tested will “never” be the same as the number of cases that were confirmed to be positive for COVID-19.

“People are asking why there has been discrepancies in the figures. It is because the cumulative number of unique individuals tested is being validated to remove duplicates,” she noted at a press briefing.

Vergeire was referring to the lists submitted by testing laboratories which may contain double names or entries and case numbers that have been tagged more than once in laboratories.

Meanwhile, National Task Force against Coronavirus Response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said the other day that the government is gaining ground in its fight against COVID-19.

“From the start of our fight against COVID-19, we have a plan. We have a National Action Plan. Majority of the areas in our country are now classified as moderate and low risk already,” Galvez said.

“What I’m seeing based on the plans that we do in the National Task Force is we are winning. From the threshold of WHO (World Health Organization), meaning our big positivity rate (which is below 10 percent), the situation is getting better,” Galvez said. — with reports from Shiela Crisostomo, Christina Mendez, Jose Rodel Clapano

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