Health experts: Mass testing, contact tracing, strict isolation needed to support NCR granular lockdown

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) – Health experts in the country agree that the implementation of granular lockdowns in Metro Manila starting Sept. 8 would not be enough to significantly decrease COVID-19 cases in the region.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said granular lockdowns must be complemented by other interventions, such as randomized mass testing, more aggressive contact tracing, and early detection and isolation efforts to effectively curb the spread of the virus.

David added that based from experience, granular lockdowns alone are not effective if the virus expanded its reach in an area.

"Our local governments will have a hard time in this setup because of their limited manpower. For example, there are 100 barangays in a city and 10 of them only have cases, it will be easier to implement a granular lockdown. But if there are 90 barangays with cases, the local government will have a hard time dealing with those because there will be persons assigned to man the locked down area and bring food there," Guido told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Weekend on Sunday.

RELATED: IATF approves granular lockdown status in NCR starting Sept. 8 – DTI chief 

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Benjamin Co said the granular lockdowns should not only last for two weeks, the timeframe imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force in implementing the localized quarantine classification.

"It takes one family of five or six people in the household at least three to four weeks to be fully recovered. If you have one whole street, one whole barangay that's infected, it will take them two to three months to recover," Co told CNN Philippines.

Co said local governments should utilize their isolation facilities, instead of granular lockdowns in barangays, to easily separate sick individuals.

"That is where the testing, the tracing, the isolating comes in especially among the informal settlers," he added.

With Metro Manila still registering over a thousand daily COVID-19 cases, health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon said a stricter quarantine classification is the answer to slow down infections in the region and the whole nation.

Leachon added that an extension of the current modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status in Metro Manila, not a granular lockdown, is the best compromise to control the spread of COVID-19 infections and to perform more mass testing, intensive contact tracing, and rapid vaccination activities.

"It would be a disaster if they will actually do MECQ to GCQ (general community quarantine) on a granular lockdown. It's quite dangerous considering we have high positivity rate, we have high mobility, we have high reproduction number, we have low testings in a Delta variant environment with a demoralized workforce crisis," Leachon told CNN Philippines. "It is a perfect storm, actually."

Meanwhile, David said the country's reproduction number, the number of people that can be infected by a person in a susceptible population, decreased to 1.31 and OCTA expects a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases by the third week of September if the trend continues.

On Sunday, the country recorded over 20,000 new COVID-19 cases for the third day in a row

CNN Philippines correspondent Paige Javier contributed to this report.