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Mass testing should be done before lifting ECQ as current COVID-19 data could be misleading —UP experts

Some experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) advised the government to conduct mass testing before relaxing the measures in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

UP political science assistant professor Ranjit Rye argued that making decisions based on the available data about COVID-19 cases would be dangerous because of the absence of mass testing.

“We are very strongly against opening up of certain cities within Metro Manila given the fact that the data shows numbers are still escalating over Metro Manila,” he said in a Dobol B sa News TV interview on Monday.

“Fifty days po tayong wala masyadong testing. Ngayon pa lang po tayo nagtetesting. Kapag nakuha na ‘yun saka tayo mag-isip ng mga innovative ideas na ‘yan,” he added.

UP Institute of Mathematics professor Guido David said the total results in COVID-19 testing have a 38% delay.

“Kaya medyo dangerous to make these assessments based sa real time kasi may delay ‘yung data natin,” David said during the interview.

Rye said other countries tested about 30 to 50% of their population when they conducted mass testing.

The expert warned of a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases when the restrictions will be relaxed in certain areas, citing the experience of Cebu where the cases exponentially grew after lifting some measures.

“Nama-manage natin siya somehow. Magkamali tayo ng desisyon, puwede tayong lumabas na Cebu,” Rye said.

He clarified that the “flattened curve” only shows the slowing down of virus transmission. It does not mean that the number of cases already reached its peak. “We are not yet in the worst of situation,” he said.

Rye said the best way to shorten the ECQ is to provide mass testing and to listen to epidemiologists.

'Flattening the curve'

David echoed Rye’s statements saying that “flattening the curve” is only “theoretical.”

“'Yung formal definition ng flattening of the curve, ibig sabihin niya kapag napapabagal na natin 'yung rate of transmission, na-flatten na natin ‘yung curve,” he said.

David stressed that the active cases are the figures that should be monitored.

“Essentially, ‘yung net ng positive sa disease, 'yung mga nahawa minus ‘yung mga gumaling—‘yun 'yung net number of cases. So 'yung net number ng cases ay zero or negative na, essentially, na- flatten na talaga siya,” he said.

On Monday, Department of Health–National Capital Region (NCR) regional director Corazon Flores said 10 cities out of the 17 local government units in Metro Manila are already slowing down the doubling time of COVID-19 cases, from two to three days to five days.

“Ibig sabihin, gumaganda na po ‘yung sitwasyon sa Metro Manila,” she said.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya earlier hinted that some parts of the NCR will be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) after May 15.

However, to prevent a second wave of cases, the Metro Manila Council requested another 15-day extension of the ECQ in NCR after its expiration on May 15. The IATF is considering the recommendation.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Jojo Garcia on Saturday said the Metro Manila Council whose members are mayors of all the cities and municipalities in Metro Manila, will recommend to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases three scenarios after the second extension of the ECQ ends on May 15.

The three scenarios the group will recommend are: extension of the ECQ for up to two weeks, or until the end of May; moving Metro Manila from ECQ to general community quarantine (GCQ), or implementing a modified combination of an ECQ and a GCQ. —KG, GMA News