Stricter lockdown 'best way' to stop COVID-19 surge – health experts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 27) — Placing the NCR Plus bubble under stricter quarantine rules is the "best" approach to stop the COVID-19 spike, but the government must use the time to ensure the implementation of an expanded contact tracing and faster testing to not waste efforts and control the surge in cases, health experts said on Saturday.

"This is the best way to stop this, stricter restrictions. This will work," Dr. Guido David of the OCTA Research told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Weekend Ngayon.

David stressed that while there was a slight decline in the reproduction rate during the NCR Plus bubble, the measures were "not strong enough" to slow down the COVID-19 surge.

If the government failed to impose a hard lockdown, new cases would further increase to 12,000 to 13,000 per day, he warned.

On Saturday, the Department of Health reported 9,595 new infections, bringing the total to 712,442, of which 16.6% or 118,122 were active cases.

Amid the worsening situation, the government announced that the NCR Plus—Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal—would be placed under the strictest enhanced community quarantine from March 29 to April 4.

READ: NCR Plus to shift to stricter ECQ for one week

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the government must learn from last year's scenario.

"Hindi lang dapat lockdown. Dapat may malawak at mabilis na testing at tracing. Kung hindi ito gagawin, huwag na lang mag-lockdown kasi iyon nga ang purpose nito," she told CNN Philippines.

"Kung hindi ito aasikasuhin, masasayang lang," Cabral added.

[Translation: It shouldn't be just lockdown. There should be extensive and fast testing and tracing. If these cannot be done, let's not impose a lockdown. If they will not focus on these, they're just wasting time.]

Cabral also reminded the public to strictly follow minimum health standards to prevent being infected. If a person experiences even mild symptoms, Cabral said barangay officials must be informed for them to take necessary steps.