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DOH: COVID-19 transmission has not slowed, decrease in cases only 'artificial'

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said COVID-19 transmission in the Philippines has not yet slowed down, clarifying that the decrease in cases is only “artificial” since several testing laboratories did not operate during the Holy Week.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained that it is “too early” to say that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) reimposed over Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal has caused a decrease in new COVID-19 cases. 

Vergeire said about 71 laboratories did not operate on Easter Sunday alone “and this would really affect the numbers that we are going to report in these next days.”

“Itong artificial na pagbaba ng mga kaso, ‘wag po nating isipin na bumabagal ang spread ng transmission natin. Hindi pa po natin makikita ang epekto nitong ginagawa nating ECQ until about two weeks from the time that we have ended the ECQ,” she said in a briefing.

(Let us not think that transmission has slowed down because of the artificial decrease in cases. We won’t see the effect of this ECQ until about two weeks from the time that we have ended the ECQ.)

In their latest monitoring report, experts from the OCTA Research group said the ECQ was “effective” in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Metro Manila since the reproduction number in the region decreased to 1.61.

The DOH, on the other hand, said it does not base its pandemic response on the reproduction number — the number of people that each COVID-19 case can infect — because it is “affected by a lot of factors.”

Vergeire said that during the 2020 surge, it took 10 days after the end of the ECQ for cases to decline. It also took three to four weeks for the healthcare utilization rate to go down.

The Philippines has 795,051 infections with 646,100 recoveries and 13,425 deaths as of Sunday afternoon. 

Malacañang has said that it is “unlikely” for the ECQ to be extended past April 11.  —KBK, GMA News