UP researchers project 375,000 total COVID-19 cases by end-September

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 26) — UP researchers said COVID-19 infections in the country may reach 375,000 by the end of September, while the virus's reproductive rate is seen to further decline.

During a hearing conducted by the House of Representatives' committee on Metro Manila Development, the University of the Philippine OCTA Research Team said total COVID-19 cases in the country will range from 330,000 to 375,000 by end of September.

The reproductive number, or the rate at which the virus is transmitted, is seen to further decline, it said. The team noted that currently, the rate is between 1 and 1.1, slower from 1.5 three weeks ago.

“That is something positive in our view and over a period of time it is going down,”Professor Ranjit Rye from UP OCTA said.

For the National Capital Region alone, where about 60 percent of cases are from, the team said total cases would range from 180,000 to 215,000 by end-September.

Professor Guido David of UP OCTA noted that both the reproductive number and the positivity rate of the region are seen to decline. Currently, reproductive rate of NCR is between 1 and 1.1, while positivity rate is at 14 percent.

Hospital bed and intensive care unit occupancy in the region is still at the critical level of 70 percent, with nine cities still above this, namely Muntinlupa, Marikina, Valenzuela, Taguig, Las Piñas, Mandaluyong, Manila, Quezon City, Makati. 

Testing czar Benjamin Magalong told the committee that Metro Manila’s contact tracing ratio is currently at 1:5, or one contact tracer for five close contacts of a COVID-19 patient, higher than 1:3 before the modified enhanced community quarantine period.

Total contact tracers numbered 149,043, while total teams were at 15,103 as of August 18.

However, Magalong said he was not satisfied with that record since this was still far from the target of 1:37 for urban areas, or each contact tracer tracking 37 persons who had contact with an infected individual, and 1:30 for rural areas.

He noted that for every case, three teams should be doing the tracing because they have to cover about 30 to 37 contacts.

Magalong said that based on his consultation with the regions, one of the reasons for poor contact tracing of local government units is the lack of involvement of the mayors, who should be leading this. Because of this, contact tracers are not pushed to work harder to come up with better results, not to mention the lack of incentives for these frontliners.

Aside from this, contact tracers feel overwhelmed by the increasing number of infections. There are also LGUs who prioritize relief operations and establishment of isolation facilities than realize the importance of contact tracing.

He also cited other issues like lack of funding, and lack of innovation and non-utilization of analytical tools.

The government is currently implementing efforts to hire more contact tracers. For one, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority is set to launch its contact tracing course that will prioritize training in regions with high number of cases.