Photo from the UP Philippine General Hospital Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/philippinegeneralhospitalofficial/photos/a.1650598348304731/1650597904971442/?type=3&theater

Since the COVID-19 outbreak swept over the country, the health care workers of the UP Philippine General Hospital, one of the country’s COVID-19 referral centers, have been dealing with an unprecedented crisis and working round-the-clock to treat patients with COVID-19. The UP-PGH’s COVID Crisis Team now shares the five lessons they have learned over the past six months of battling against the viral pandemic.

Confused about the many issuances from your local government about the COVID-19 pandemic? The UP Resilience Institute’s Research and Creative Work team is ready to help with the launch of the second volume of the Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Philippines: A Policy Sourcebook. This policy sourcebook, which is updated monthly, is a way for ordinary Filipinos to stay up-to-date with the national government’s and their local government’s latest policies and measures to defeat the viral pandemic in the country. While Volume I focused on national issuances, Volume II covers local government policies.

The good news: quarantine measures have managed to decrease local transmission and flatten the curve in Western Visayas. The bad news: a surge in imported cases in the region has led to testing backlogs and strained quarantine facilities. Given this, UP Visayas researchers and ThinkWell Philippines recommend more preparations for local transmission outbreaks in the LGUs, maintenance of minimum public health standards, and a review of the repatriation protocols in terms of testing, tracing and treatment.

Figure 9. Breakdown of daily cases in NCR by LGU. The high number of cases in NCR that are not attributed to an LGU (i.e. unknown city) is not within statistical error.

The surge in COVID-19 cases in the country point to a very significant community transmission in the country, especially in the NCR and Cebu City. Because of this, the UP-OCTA research team cautions against prematurely downgrading the quarantine status in high-risk areas, as well as increase testing, boost aggressive contact tracing, improve treatment and establish more quarantine and other isolation facilities.

Without continued vigilance on the part of the government, private sector, civil society, and citizens, this significant community transmission in the country may lead to the pandemic getting out of control. If both national and local governments continue to fail to provide a prompt and adequate response, all our societal and financial sacrifices will be wasted, and we will likely experience another wave. This may lead to yet another round of more stringent restrictions, which could be harder for the government to implement and will likely undermine our economic recovery.

In their 10th forecast report, UP scientists dive into recent data on COVID-19 cases in the country, especially in the NCR and Cebu province, and show that while the pandemic is still spreading, the situation is still manageable. Given the clearer picture of the pandemic, they offer strategic options for the national government going forward.

Figure 1. Aggregate number of Covid-19 cases in NCR (red), numbering 7,736 as of May 25, 2020. Also shown are Covid-19 cases in NCR for validation (blue), currently at 1,498.

A group of researchers from the University of the Philippines publishes its eight forecast report on May 26, 2020, and recommends that the national government continue the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in NCR and consider the same in other high-risk areas.

The forecast report states that reproduction number R of NCR, which is oscillating at around 1.0 rather than showing a discernible decrease is a sign that it might be premature to relax the MECQ to GCQ. Given that the data received from DOH appears to have a lag, NCR remains a high-risk area.

A UPLB scientist and member of the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team breaks down the epidemic wave of COVID-19 that swept over the country, and at what point can we say that we have reached the peak of that wave. Read more here.

As community quarantine measures are relaxed, more economic activities are being allowed at varying levels of capacity. In their Policy Note No. 7, the UP COVID-19 Response Team presents findings from their risk assessment of various job types, including proper phasing in of different jobs and manageable interventions to lessen the health risks at work.

COVID-19 FORECASTS IN THE PHILIPPINES: Post-ECQ Report

In this Forecast Report No. 7, UP experts cite data analyses to show that the past enhanced community quarantine worked to reduce transmission and deaths due to COVID-19. However, in certain areas of the country, the risk level of the pandemic is still high. Read about the recommendations of UP scientists regarding the continuation of quarantine measures in some areas and the loosening of restrictions in others.