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Around 3 million COVID-19 cases unreported from April to June, Ateneo study estimates

A study from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)-Department of Economics estimated that around 3 million COVID-19 cases were unreported in the country from April to June.

Interviewed on GMA Network’s Unang Hirit on Thursday, Jan Frederick Cruz of ADMU-Department of Economics said that the number is an estimation of the possible unreported cases based on the current data on COVID-19.

“Noon pa man, meron nang agam-agam, meron nang haka-haka patungkol sa underreporting. At ang ginawa lamang natin ay magbigay ng number kung gaano ba kalala ang underreporting na ito,” he said.

“Ang pinagbasehan kasi natin dito sa computation, crude estimation lang naman siya based sa isang papel na nai-publish sa isang academic journal several months ago,” he added.

Cruz explained that the methodology used was based on a previous study in “Evaluating the Massive Underreporting and Undertesting of COVID-19 Cases in Multiple Global Epicenters.”

This process targeted to determine the ‘real’ number of COVID-19 cases using the number of confirmed infections and fatalities in the US, South Korea, Japan, China, France, and Italy.

Cruz said the methodology applied to these industrialized economies was applied to the ASEAN-5 for his study, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore.

“The analysis reveals that 96%-99% of COVID-19 cases in the ASEAN-5 were undetected during April-June 2020,” said the study, which was released on Tuesday.

“Roughly three million Filipinos (2.6% of the national population) may have been infected by the virus in the same period—the worst record in the ASEAN-5 group in percentage terms,” it added.

The study revealed that the confirmed COVID-19 cases are only one to two percent of the estimated unreported cases, Cruz noted.

He called the Philippines as the worst performer among the ASEAN-5 in controlling the spread of the infection, saying that the country has a high proportion of COVID-19 cases over its population.

While acknowledging the improvement in the testing capacity of the Philippines, Cruz said the coverage should be expanded. For him, mass testing will improve the response against COVID-19.

"I understand na ayaw ng gobyerno na tawagin siyang mass testing at ang preferred label nila expanded targeted testing pero regardless of terminology ang importante makapag-test tayo ng maraming tao,” he said.

“Nang sa gayon, meron tayong pagkakatiwalaang datos ng impormasyon na pagbabatayan noong susunod nating gagawin,” he said.

Cruz pointed out that the implementation of community quarantine and lockdown will be pointless without mass testing.

“Kung paulit-ulit tayong nagla-lockdown. Pinipilit natin ‘yung mga tao na maging tambay sa bahay nila for a very long period. But, after the lockdown, after this strict quarantine, hindi natin alam paglabas nila safe na ba sila,” he said.

Cruz suggested to adopt the strategy of Vietnam, where all the ‘population at risk’ in areas with COVID-19 transmission were tested.

When they turned positive for the disease, Cruz said those who had contact with them and those who had exposure to the people who had contact with positive cases were also tested.

The Philippine government is targeting to test two percent of the over a hundred million population in the country, which is around 2 million.

Cruz reminded that vulnerable people have a higher chance of fatality when infected.

He said there are 5 million Filipinos suffering from diabetes, 11 million from asthma, and 12 million from hypertension. Aside from them, around 8 million senior citizens are also considered as vulnerable.

For Cruz, these data should also be considered in mass testing.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported 173,774 COVID-19 cases in the country, with 113,481 recoveries and 2,795 fatalities.—AOL, GMA News