IATF uses new metrics in deciding quarantine rules for Metro Manila, other areas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) — The COVID-19 task force is using two new ways to assess the health situation in Metro Manila and the provinces in deciding on quarantine rules for October, the Department of Health said on Monday.

Health Spokesperson and Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the two metrics are called the "two-week growth rate" and "daily attack rate," which both track how fast coronavirus infections spread in a certain area.

These have been factored in the agency's recommended community quarantine assignments for the coming month, which will be discussed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases on Monday afternoon.

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Vergeire said the old methods of tracking the case doubling time and mortality doubling time are no longer as sensitive in deciding the right quarantine level to monitor and contain infections in a specific area.

The two-week growth rate computes how many cases were tallied for the last two weeks and is compared to the average daily cases two weeks prior per location. Meanwhile, the daily attack rate tracks the day-to-day increase or decrease of confirmed cases in a certain area or population.

"This is more sensitive kasi nakikita natin 'yung (because we can see the) true picture of the community," Vergeire said during a Malacañang briefing.

The case doubling and mortality doubling rates will be used to monitor the general trend, while the new metrics will apply in monitoring specific areas, she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte will address the nation tonight and will likely announce the latest community quarantine rules per area, his spokesman Harry Roque said. Metro Manila, the epicenter of the local COVID-19 outbreak, has been under general community quarantine for four months now.

"Ito pong mga bagong indicators na ito ay ito na po ang kanilang pinag-aralan for this specific decision (on quarantine rules) that will be made [These new indicators have been used and studied for this specific decision (on quarantine rules) that will be made]," Vergerie said.

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Roque added that the latest request of Mayor Jerry Treñas to scale down Iloilo City to GCQ – after requesting a reversal to lockdowns just last week – is set to be discussed.

Roque also said the nationwide daily tally of new cases averaged 2,988 from Sept. 16 to 23, a steady decline for the last five weeks. For Metro Manila, there was a drop in new cases the past week, averaging 1,209 per day versus the prior week's 1,821.

Some 57 percent of COVID-19 beds are occupied, below the 70 percent critical threshold.

Vergeire pointed out that while there are lower occupancy rates recorded for critical care units in health facilities, several infection clusters in Metro Manila remain a concern among authorities.

"As far as critical care capacity is concerned, we are on moderate risk. As far as case doubling rate is concerned, malayo pa ang tatahakin," Roque added, referring to Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, Vergeire added that safeguards are in place as Boracay and Baguio City are set to reopen to tourists by Thursday, October 1. The IATF has approved a "test before travel" scheme for Boracay island, where visitors must have a negative swab test before flying to the popular tourist spot. Bohol is the next destination slated to reopen in October.