By Daniel Llanto

A University of the Philippines think thank reported that after a thorough study it found the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed over Metro Manila “very effective” in checking the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Professor Mahar Lagmay of the UP Resilience Institute (UPRI) said the university’s Institute of Mathematics submitted research on April 20 showing that the number of new infections per day in the National Capital Region appears to have already reached its peak.

“In Metro Manila, they are saying that it seems we are already at the peak. So that means that our efforts in the ECQ have really been very, very effective,” Lagmay said in a TV interview.

Because of the ECQ many provinces and cities also reduced risk of the spread of COVID-19, he said.

Lagmay however warned that once quarantine measures are lifted, “the spread might spike up again.”  The UP COVID-19 Pandemic Team said however that its implementation over a wide area may not be sustainable beyond April 30.

To avoid this, UPRI said policymakers need to base their decisions on whether to lift or continue the quarantine on “science-based models.”

The study, led mostly by mathematicians across different UP campuses, showed that the number of confirmed cases now takes a little longer to double in number.

“What took three days for the total number of cases to double now takes about six days to happen,” the study found.

Its estimate is that the number of COVID-19 cases by the end of April would be between 9,000 to 44,000. “In general, this indicates the relative success of the ECQ along with other interventions in containing the spread of the virus.”

Another benchmark used in the study to test the effectiveness of the ECQ was the case fatality rate.

Based on the data as of April 10, the study reported an estimated case fatality rate of 5.38 percent and a reproduction number of 0.6398, pointing out that “the ECQ has been effective.”

The UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team, of which Lagmay is part of, earlier recommended the government shift to a “modified quarantine” after the Luzon-wide lockdown ends on April 30.

UP researchers studying COVID-19 data from the Department of Health launched a web portal and interactive map showing COVID-19 hotspots as well as medical and other facilities in these areas.

The map can help policymakers and local government officials determine which barangays, towns or cities have a high probability of having another outbreak and thus need to continue ECQ measures.

It also shows which areas have a low chance of having an outbreak where the ECQ may be lifted, he said.

“In terms of the ECQ, that can be the take-off point for making logical decisions with respect to the socio-economic implications as well as the number of health facilities that are needed in order for us to prioritize our resources,” Lagmay said.

Business groups have also called on the government for a “calibrated easing” of the quarantine after April 30, warning that continuing the lockdown will further weigh on the economy.

“With all these science and statistical-analysis based models we may be able to arrive at very, very good decisions for our country.”

According to the Department of Health, the number of recoveries from COVID-19 surpassed the 600th mark, totaling to 613 as of April 20.

The DoH recorded 41 new recoveries and 200 new confirmed cases of the disease in the country, raising the total to 6,459.