A still steady rise in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines is seen to peak at 60,000 to 70,000 by the end of July, OCTA Research — composed mostly of experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) — said on Monday.
The new coronavirus cases are still consistently upward, said Dr. Guido David of the University of the Philippines Institute of Mathematics, attributing the rise or “R-naught” to the shift to more relaxed protocols.
He said that if the R-naught is more than one, it means a faster spread of the pandemic.
“Our R-naught now is at 1.28 in the whole Philippines. As long as it is more than one, it means that the pandemic is still spreading,” he stated.
David emphasized that the goal of decreasing the R-naught should be sustained in various areas nationwide.
“There are areas that are less than one (R-naught), but it doesn’t last long — usually only about two days,” he said. “But if it’s greater like in Cebu where its R-naught reached two, then it decreased again by 1.8 and still decreasing, that means there is a fast-paced spread of the virus,” he said.
David disclosed that the group had asked to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) when after some experts saw an initial flattening of the virus curve.
“We wanted to extend for a little bit. Because instead of initially enduring just two more weeks of ECQ, we opened our economy and we are suffering longer with the pandemic,” he said.
This has put much weight on the country’s hospital resources, especially in high-risk areas like Cebu, the group said.
The Department of Health (DoH) had announced that the hospital utilization rate of Cebu City is already nearing its critical level. Hospitals and health professionals in the area are now struggling to cater to all the patients.
“We’re concerned about our hospital resource utilization because NCR (National Capital Region) now has 50 percent utilization. So they’re still not full, but in Cebu it is increasing with their occupancy now at 70 percent. It means the beds are almost full,” he said.
David also emphasized that only about three percent of asymptomatic cases are being reported compared to other countries with 40 percent as experts fear that more cases remain undetected.
“It could be possible that many are asymptomatic but have not been detected because we haven’t tested them yet. As what I understand with DoH protocol, due to limited testing only those with symptoms are tested first,” he said.
Estimates reveal that about 8,000 additional asymptomatic cases are still unreported. If added to the tally, these will increase the data by 30 percent.
“They (asymptomatic) won’t ask for any tests because they are not aware about their cases. That’s riskier since our estimate is that there are around 8,000 additional cases scattered and whom we don’t know are asymptomatic,” he added.
He, however, cited a few good points in their projection, like the minimal increase in projected fatalities by only about a hundred and the increase of hospital recoveries.
“There are a few good indicators that even if we reach 60,000 (cases), our projected death total is at 1,300 only. So it seems like only about 100 will be added,” he said.
The expert suggested to increase the testing capacity in order to conduct randomized testing among the population. More workers should also be tested.
Latest data from the DoH says the nationwide number of cases is now at over 35,000 with recoveries at 9,686 and a death toll of 1,244.