‘More testing, isolation facilities in Visayas and Mindanao needed’

Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - December 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With some provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao reporting an increase in coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 cases, experts have recommended building more testing and isolation capacities to manage and control the spread of the disease.

In its monitoring report released on Monday,  OCTA research group, which is composed of experts from the University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas (UST), said cases are ”more spread out” despite a relative flat to small increase in cases nationwide.

“It is important to build up testing capacities and isolation areas in Mindanao and the Visayas, where an increase in COVID-19 cases may be more difficult to manage and control,” OCTA said.

The report compared the average number of cases from Nov. 15 to 21 and from Nov. 22 to 28.

Aside from Metro Manila, which recorded an 18 percent increase, OCTA said the average daily cases in Davao del Sur jumped from 99 to 109, Quezon (48 to 63), Negros Occidental (55 to 62), Pampanga (44 to 52), Bulacan (35 to 44), Misamis Oriental (24 to 35) and Western Samar (12 to 21).

High-risk areas

The cities of Makati, Lucena in Quezon, Batangas, Davao and Pagadian in Zamboanga del Sur were identified as high-risk areas.

“Based on available data, it is becoming clear to us that the increase in new cases in many places around the country are largely community transmission exacerbated by the rise in mobility due to the opening up of the economy coupled with deteriorating compliance with minimum health standards,” OCTA said.

“In some places, the situation is exacerbated by the effects of recent typhoons, including delays in test reports due to the temporary closing of test centers,” it said.

OCTA projected between 470,000 to 500,000 cases by the end of the year.

In an interview with “The Chiefs” on One News/TV 5 on Monday night, OCTA members stressed the need to remind the public to continue to follow health protocols, especially during the Christmas holidays.

“It’s not a hopeless situation. We can balance lives and livelihood,” UP political science professor Ranjit Singh Rye said.

“What we’re hoping in OCTA is that while we’re opening up the economy, the rise will not be so fast that it will become a surge that will overcome the healthcare system,” Rye added.

Unflattening curve

UP mathematics professor Guido David said reaching the 500,000 mark would mean that the curve is ”unflattening and we’re starting on an upward trend.”

“Maybe mobility and the holiday spirit, people not being compliant anymore or establishments being full or being at capacity will trigger these increases,” David said.

Nicanor Austriaco, visiting professor of Biology at UST, said the goal is to have a low caseload with the onset of the holiday season.

“We’re approaching a time when there will be a lot of social mixing so you want to have a caseload that is as a low as possible before Christmas. That should be the target,” he said.

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