Expert cautions about possible second wave of COVID-19 infections with quarantine lifting

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) – An infectious diseases specialist warned on Tuesday of a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections if the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine will be lifted after April 30.

Dr. Gene Solante, head of the San Lazaro Hospital’s Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Department, noted the country has not yet totally slowed down its COVID-19 infections despite the reduction of confirmed cases each day.

“Our cases maintained at least 200 cases a day, that’s an improvement itself. But it’s not flattening the curve. It’s really getting to zero, no reported cases of the infection,” Solante told CNN Philippines.

Solante suggested a modified quarantine setup after April 30, where only areas with a high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases will still be on lockdown.

“We go by each of the city and look at where most of these cases are concentrated. For those cities that are not reporting any cases of COVID-19, most likely they will be the first cities on selective lifting of lockdown,” he explained.

Solante emphasized the need for mass testing in solving the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. He also pointed out there is a lack of data in the community level on COVID-19 patients who had mild symptoms, had direct contact with other infected patients, and are asymptomatic.

“The crucial part is our capability to do the tests. The data that we have now is among patients who are admitted in hospital,” added Solante.

Solante stressed that mass testing should be concentrated on cities with high number of COVID-19 infections to further reduce the impact of the virus in the country.

“We have to pinpoint where are the sources of the cases. Then, zero in on this city or this particular barangay and do the tests,” said Solante. “Once the lockdown is lifted, these are also the people who will be going out and potentially infecting other individuals.”

Solante also said the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test is the most reliable COVID-19 testing method because it can detect the presence of the virus among actively infected persons.

He mentioned the rapid antibody tests only identifies antigen, a particular part of the virus where the body will react and produce.

“If that antibody is present, it can either be you are probably actively infected or you are recovering from the infection,” said Solante.

The rapid antibody test kits also have low sensibility, thus not accurately detecting the presence of the virus, Solante said.

Solante said that with the advanced technology now in creating vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine can be created in two to three years.

“I am positive that within a year, a lot of pharmaceutical companies are already in phase 2 of development, meaning they already have the molecules. It’s a matter of which animals they will be testing and measuring the anti-level of that particular vaccine,” he said.

As of this afternoon, the Department of Health posted 6,599 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 654 individuals have recovered and 437 died from the disease.

Globally, the COVID-19 has affected 2,494,915 lives as of the latest count from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. A total of 171,249 died and 658,009 recovered.