Since Day One, the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team has done simulations on the spread of SARS-COV-2 in the country. Our bioinformatics group—composed mostly of mathematicians from different UP campuses—estimate a peak by end of April to June with approximately 140,000 to 550,000 people infected in Metro Manila. A significant proportion of this estimate will not be detected unless they are tested. Hence, these estimates can guide testing capacity requirements for the succeeding months. Hospital bed capacity requirements among other healthcare metrics, can also be reasonably projected based on the proportion of severe cases (5%).
Epidemic duration estimates can help decision-makers make informed decisions and craft appropriate strategies to calibrate interventions over the short- to long-term. To this end, we are publicly releasing the results of our projections, with the hope that this can guide government action (Table 1). Other groups have conducted their own simulations using different parameters and assumptions, which reveal much higher numbers of infected persons ranging from 1.5 to 4 million for Metro Manila and 23-29 million for the whole country.
Our simulations also show that non-medical interventions included in the extended community quarantine such as work and school shutdown, requirement of face masks (even homemade masks with filter), washing of hands, and social distancing, can reduce the spread of the virus and flatten the curve for our healthcare system to cope with cases on infected individuals (Figure 2). Community quarantine buys us time to beef up our healthcare system’s capacity, while limiting the reach of the disease. Thus, a modified, location-specific quarantine scenario can be explored in light of public healthcare realities on the ground (e.g. number of ventilators, hospital beds) and possibly different peak periods across LGUs throughout the country.
Simulations can be improved further with more detailed information gathered using online survey forms where each LGU can input data at barangay level on a daily basis (Figure 2a). Hospital information on the number of people tested, recovered and other critical data for modeling should also be collected without delay to improve the analysis of the situation and expose areas where local community quarantine can be implemented (Figure 2b). Contact tracing should also be implemented with the aid of technologies that can do rapid collection of data. Such information system should be implemented now. UP and its partners have built this kind of system using its infrastructure and is ready for deployment.
The general welfare of the public is of utmost consideration to us. Filipinos living below the poverty line and those who cannot work under the current circumstances require adequate support to minimize economic hardship. Government should continue to pursue these actions for the country. We also urge the government to get detailed real-time information for improved science-based decisions to address our current crisis.
COVID-19 is not an invisible enemy. It leaves behind traces of itself, which we can use to get ahead of the curve and stop it in its tracks. But to get there, we have to gather—and share—as much data as possible, apply the best science available, and ultimately listen to what the numbers could tell us.
Download the report here.
View the infographics here.