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OCTA: Shorter 'circuit breaker' needed if restrictions tightened by Aug. 1

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Metro Manila will only need to be under a “circuit breaker” lockdown for one to two weeks if the government decides to tighten restrictions in the capital region starting August 1, the OCTA Research group said Wednesday.

OCTA fellow Professor Guido David stressed that “the longer we wait, the longer the lockdown will have to be” since an early implementation of circuit-breaking measures can help control transmission “almost immediately.”

David said Metro Manila is currently averaging 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day.

Citing projections by OCTA, he said a circuit breaker starting August 1 can drive down new infections to just 600 daily.


David warned, however, that daily new cases could rise to 1,700 if measures are only tightened starting August 8. By August 15, Metro Manila could have as many as 2,500 daily new cases.

“An early intervention will mean a quicker lockdown period because we’re able to control the caseload immediately, and it’s at a lower level, so we can reduce it down to a very manageable level immediately,” he explained in a forum hosted by Blueprint.PH.

Projected hospital utilization rate

Meanwhile, OCTA fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said hospitals in Metro Manila could be 70% to 100% full by August if the Philippines suffers a case surge driven by the highly contagious Delta variant like its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Austriaco projected that the capital region would log a critical-risk healthcare utilization rate of 70% by August 10 to 12 based on patterns seen in Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

By August 15 to 19, the hospital occupancy rate could reach 100%, he added.

“Once a Delta surge begins, it accelerates in an explosive fashion,” Austriaco said.

“No country in ASEAN has been able to halt and reverse a Delta surge without a hard lockdown of major cities. The longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to halt and reverse the surge,” he added.

The Philippines has recorded 119 Delta variant cases as of July 24, only 12 of which remain active. 

David said “approximately 7% of cases nationwide are probably Delta variant [cases]” since the country’s genome sequencing capacity is limited.

“What they report in genome sequencing is probably not all of the cases because we only sample an average of 100 cases per day but we know that right now, we’re averaging more than 6,000 cases per day in the whole Philippines,” he noted.

Health authorities earlier said there were efforts to expand genome sequencing after admitting that Delta variant cases may be underreported, with only around 750 samples sequenced weekly. 

Circuit breaker measures

OCTA fellow Professor Ranjit Rye said they would leave it up to the government to decide what kind of circuit breaking measures to put in place but underscored that the status quo “will not be enough.”

Metro Manila is under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions until July 31. 

Secretary Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the government’s pandemic response, said authorities are open to OCTA’s recommendations but added that they will seek a “balanced solution” to the threat of the Delta variant.  —KBK/RSJ, GMA News

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