MANILA – A data-driven report published by a political consultancy firm forecasts a “complete collapse” of health care systems in Metro Manila and across the entire Philippines unless quarantined persons strictly comply with the Enhanced Community Quarantine of Luzon and other quarantine protocols in effect across the country.
PUBLiCUS Asia, Inc. (PAI) published on Friday a report titled ‘#FlattenTheCurve: Effects of Exposure Risk Reduction and Quarantine Policies on COVID-19 Local Transmission Rates in the Philippines’. The PAI Report studies the effects of the government’s quarantine and lockdown policies on disease prevalence (the cumulative number of COVID-19 individuals within the population) and disease incidence (the number of people that may require medical treatment as a specific point in time) using a susceptible-infection epidemiological model of Metro Manila.
Model Predicts Strain on PH Health Care Systems
According to the model the number of infections and patients requiring medical treatment differs substantially at different levels of exposure risk, which correspond to the number of acts or interactions that could cause the virus to spread from one person to another. Day 1 of the model is March 7, 2020, on which date the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first case of local transmission.
The model predicts that conducting business-as-usual operations in Metro Manila without any restrictions on travel, work, school, and outings, along with a lack of deliberate social distancing would cause an overwhelming majority of Metro Manila residents to test positive for COVID-19 in less than a month assuming a moderate infection rate of 10%.
Meanwhile, creating an environment in Metro Manila with the lowest possible exposure risk would slow the spread of the virus more than nine times to 150 days or five months. However, the report states that as stringent as the Enhanced Community Quarantine of Luzon may be, it still does not reduce exposure risk down to the minimum Level 1.
Regarding the epidemiological projections for disease incidence of COVID-19 positive individuals requiring medical treatment the report noted that “even the most conservative model at the lowest exposure risk level predicts a terrible strain on the Philippine healthcare system.”
At the peak of disease incidence for exposure risk level 1 on the model with a conservative 5% infection rate there would be as many as 124,992 persons requiring treatment for COVID-19 on a single day.
Global estimates indicate that only 20% of COVID-19 cases are severe enough to require in-patient treatment at hospitals. This would equate to a demand of 24,998 hospital beds in Metro Manila on a single day for treatment of COVID-19 cases. The overall bed capacity of Metro Manila hospitals is only 29,000 according to the Department of Health.
Reiterating that the current Enhanced Community Quarantine does not achieve the required level of isolation for exposure risk level 1, the PAI Report somberly noted that the increase of exposure risk even a single notch to level 2 “would debilitate Metro Manila’s health care system by requiring an estimated 49,977 hospital beds on Day 162 based on the 20% moderate-severe case rate – almost double the actual bed capacity of all Metro Manila hospitals combined.”
Strict Lockdowns Necessary
Based on this data, the PAI Report concluded: “Metro Manila and perhaps even the entire Philippines – which has a national hospital bed capacity of only 106,000 – is headed towards a potentially debilitating overload of local and national health care systems as the rate of transmission of COVID-19 cases remains at a sharp upward trajectory. Therefore, it is evident that immediate action must be taken to reduce COVID-19 exposure risk by massive amounts.”
Noting that the Philippines does not, at least for the time being, have the financial or technical capabilities to adopt the mass testing and individual isolation strategy employed by the South Korean government to arrest the spread of COVID-19 in their country, the report asserted that “the most feasible and proven strategy available would be to implement widespread lockdown policies such as those implemented in Hubei, China and Italy.”
“Thus, it is clear that strict compliance with and strict enforcement of the Luzon Enhanced Community Quarantine and any future quarantine or lockdown policies are essential to averting a public health disaster or even the complete collapse of the Philippine health care system,” the report added.
For Interview/Reference: Mr. Aureli C. Sinsuat, PAI Executive Director