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UP experts project 50-70k fewer COVID-19 cases due to MECQ

An expert from the University of the Philippines on Monday said the reimposition of a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) over Metro Manila and nearby areas may reduce the projected number of COVID-19 cases by at least 50,000 by end-August.

Professor Ranjit Rye of the UP OCTA research team said they projected 220,000 COVID-19 cases in the country by the end of the month under a general community quarantine (GCQ) setup.

There could be 50,000 to 70,000 fewer cases because of the reimposition of the MECQ, he said at a Malacañang press briefing.

"Ngayon naka-MECQ, we will save more than 50,000 new cases," Rye said.

He said the MECQ will have a significant impact on the COVID-19 virus' transmission rate. At present, he said the reproduction number — or the number of people an infected person could pass the virus to — is almost 1.5 but could fall to 1 in 15 days.

"Malaking bagay na ho, kayang kaya, malaking bagay na ho na nagdesisyon ang gobyerno, kahit na napakalaki ng cost nito, na mag-MECQ," he said.

"Doon pa lang ho malaki na ang impact sa R (reproduction number), na kung paiigtingin pa yung T3 (testing, tracing, treatment) at sasamahan ng matinding kooperasyon ng private sector at civil society, walang kaduda-duda, in 15 days, babagsak 'to to one," he added.

He urged the public to stay at home and to observe health practices such as mask-wearing and physical distancing.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal back to MECQ from the GCQ for 15 days effective Tuesday, August 4, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duterte made the decision Sunday night on the recommendation of the Cabinet led by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Medical frontliners had earlier asked for Metro Manila to return to an ECQ for two weeks to give them time to rest and "recalibrate strategies" against COVID-19.

Rye and his team last Friday said the number of COVID-19 cases in the country may reach 150,000 by the end of August. At that time, the government has just announced another GCQ extension for NCR, supposedly until August 15.

In their 13th forecast report dated July 31, the research team said the number of cases could reach 150,000 with 3,000 deaths by August 31, assuming that government response efforts "will continue to be implemented strictly and effectively."

Meanwhile, the government is targeting to subject 2 to 3% of the nearly 110 million Filipino population to COVID-19 testing by the end of September, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19's presentation obtained by GMA News Online.

Based on the document dated July 2020, expanded testing is still a critical part of the second phase of the National Action Plan (NAP) to combat the pandemic.

To achieve this goal of covering 2.2 million to 3.3 million individuals by September 30, the NTF eyes increasing daily testing output to 32,000 in the "soonest possible time."   KBK, GMA News