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UP Report: Downtrend in COVID-19 cases in Cebu, Mandaue indicate ‘flattening of curve’ but…

Experts ask DOH to address data gap to streamline forecasts and decision-making

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram May 29,2020 - 01:28 PM
The Osmeña Boulevard in midtown Cebu City is quieter than usual on May 29, 2020, two months after the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the City. | CDN Digital Photo Gerard Vincent Francisco

Osmeña Boulevard in midtown Cebu City is quieter than usual on May 29, 2020, two months after the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the city. CDN Digital Photo | Gerard Vincent Francisco

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) have downgraded the risk level of Cebu City and Mandaue City to “medium-risk” after noting a downtrend in the number of new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases from both cities.

However, researchers said that such a trend could change if the 140 cases “under validation” in Central Visayas, and the over 7,000 backlogs nationwide that have resulted in a data gap in the Department of Health’s (DOH) Covid reporting, will be processed and taken into account.

“Both Cebu City and Mandaue City had decreases in the number of Covid-19 cases, based on data released by the DOH. The trends do not take into account the 140 cases in Central Visayas that are currently for validation, and the 7,119 individuals who tested positive nationwide (but have not yet been included in the official count of Covid-19 patients),” the report stated.

“As is well known, data quality and its timely release determine the quality of forecast and analysis. Our ability to use data to make decisions will be hampered if the DOH does not improve data access and quality,” it added.

On May 26, UP’s COVID-19 Forecast team completed its eighth report on the coronavirus situation. It was released on the university’s website on May 28.

The group of researchers are composed of Guido David,  Ranjit Singh Rye, Ma Patricia Agbulos as its core team, and with contributions from Erwin Alampay, Eero Rosini Brillantes, Emmanuel Lallana, Rodrigo Angelo Ong, Paulo Redondo, Michael Tee, and Benjamin Vallejo Jr.

The report was completed a day before the national government’s anti-coronavirus task force released a resolution seeking to reclassify the National Capital Region (NCR) into a more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

Experts, on the other hand, warned that it is still “premature” to ease quarantine restrictions in ‘high-risk’ areas such as NCR.

READ MOREUP researchers: Premature to ease quarantine in ‘high-risk’ capital

Cebu and Mandaue

Cebu City, in the previous report, was still classified as a high-risk area due to the continuous rise of Covid-19 cases.

However, in the latest forecast, researchers noted a downtrend in the province’s capital and its neighboring city could indicate a “flattening of the curve.” As a result, they reclassified Cebu City as a “medium-risk” area.

“Cebu City and Mandaue City both had two successive weeks of declining new cases of  Covid-19.  However, both of them also had more than one new Covid-19 case per day per million,” they said.

“Both of them are currently classified as Medium Risk because the weekly R (reproduction number) for Cebu City is 0.36 and for Mandaue City is 0.55, both less than one,” they added.

READ MORECebu City, NCR must ‘continue significant restrictions’- experts

The report also suggested that the continuing downtrend in the number of new Covid-19 cases in both cities should be sustained, and that managing the pandemic should be handled “as one.”

“While the reproduction number R for Cebu City and Mandaue City have decreased below 1, indicating flattening of the curve, this has to be sustained. The patterns reveal that both cities essentially are a single metropolitan area and should be managed as one in Covid-19 mitigation,” it stated.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) in a resolution dated May 27 recommended Cebu City to be placed under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), and GCQ for Mandaue City from June 1 to June 15.

However, Mayor Edgardo Labella on May 28 has sent a formal request before the task force for the city to be under GCQ instead.

READ MORELabella appeals to IATF to place Cebu City under GCQ

Labella has cited the downtrend in the city’s number of new coronavirus cases as one of the reasons why they have to ease quarantine restrictions.

As of May 28, Cebu City has a total of 2,055 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 471 recoveries and 25 deaths. Mandaue City, on the other hand, has 238 documented coronavirus patients with 12 recoveries and four deaths./ bmjo

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