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UP experts see over 9k new COVID-19 cases in NCR by June 15

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Experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) see more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila by June 15 if current trends and community quarantine measures continue.

In a May 20 report, researchers projected there could be 9,380 new cases and 840 deaths across cities in the National Capital Region (NCR) by June 15, with Quezon City and Mandaluyong projected to have the largest share of cases at 2,540 and 1,320, respectively.

The researchers said the projected numbers are "assuming ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) is in place and transmissions continue based on their current trends," adding that the figures do not include almost 1,000 pending cases in the region in the Department of Health's database.

"Any modifications in ECQ may cause an increase in the number of total cases and deaths," they said.

On the other hand, the researchers projected 2,485 new cases and 29 deaths in Cebu City by June 15 and 610 new cases and 17 deaths in Laguna by the same date.

They also projected there could be 315 new cases and 34 deaths in Batangas, 310 new cases and 44 deaths in Davao City, 135 new cases and three deaths in Mandaue, and 950 new cases and 17 deaths in Zamboanga City also by June 15.

Most of the country is under general community quarantine, while Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Laguna are under a modified ECQ until the end of May. Authorities have said quarantines could become more localized in June.

Philippine health authorities have recorded 13,434 COVID-19 cases in the country as of Thursday. Of this number, 3,000 patients have recovered and 846 have died.

The UP report was authored by Institute of Mathematics Assistant Professor Guido David, Department of Political Science Assistant Professor Ranjit Singh Rye, and OCTA Research Associate Ma Patricia Agbulos. They have published seven reports on the COVID-19 pandemic since April 8.

While they concluded that the ECQ has been "critical" in reducing COVID-19 transmission and deaths, the researchers said Filipinos should not be complacent "because it takes just one spreader to start a second wave of the pandemic."

They recommended that the national government continue "significant restrictions" in NCR and Cebu City and expand it to other high-risk areas as necessary.

They said Zamboanga City, Batangas and Davao City, where risk levels are still "significant," as well as Samar and Oriental Mindaoro, should be monitored.

"Given the recent decision by government to loosen restrictions and based on the experience of other countries, the likelihood of a resurgence seems to be not a question of if but where, and how bad. The virus is still with us and we have not yet developed herd immunity," the researchers said.

They also recommended that the government further expand its testing capacity and conduct "aggressive" contact tracing, as well as ensure that health systems are capable of detecting, isolating, and treating every COVID-19 case to sustain gains from the ECQ.

The researchers added there should be a mechanism for placing an area back under ECQ should the threat become significant.

"The threat of Covid-19 will still remain unless a vaccine is widely available. We need to provide criteria or a set of triggers not only for de-escalation but also to escalate restrictions that are clearly explained to the public," they said. --KBK, GMA News

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