File photo shows commuters waiting for their ride while a lone traffic enforcer of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority assist them to ensure health protocols are followed.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — If the spike in Covid infections continue unabated despite the imposition of stricter curfew hours, lockdowns, liquor ban and travel restrictions, hospital capacity to accommodate patients may reach critical levels, according to health experts from the University of the Philippines OCTA Research Group.
This is why OCTA is pushing at this point in time for the implementation of hard general community quarantine (GCQ) or soft modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in order to curb the increase in Covid-19 cases as well as the reproduction rate of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) and its mutated variants.
Under hard GCQ, that the group has advised lasting for two weeks, government offices and other important industries may still open but with a limited number of employees allowed to report for work physically in their workplaces.
It added that other employees may be shifted to a work-from-home scheme or on a staggered basis and shorter work hours to sustain the necessary daily workload for all offices and establishments.
Social gatherings, however, will be prohibited, especially in enclosed areas, as well as dine-in for restaurants and other eateries and fast-food chain outlets.
Quarantine passes will also be required under GCQ for essential workers but will mass transportation continuing to operate for the general public.
But if despite efforts fail to curb the disease and lessen its reproduction rate to 1.0 from 1.9 percent, there is a possibility that soft MECQ will be imposed.
“Right now our position is still, suppose we have a hard GCQ or a strict one and if the rate continues to escalate then we go to soft MECQ,” OCTA Research fellow Prof. Ranjit Rye explained.
“But we want a softer version of the MECQ where you have the transportation, where you have support for workers, where arrangements are made so certain establishments will remain open,” Rye also clarified.
OCTA experts advised the authorities to prioritize resident from Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) an area in the government’s national vaccination program as soon as it has completed the inoculation of frontline health workers and other priority groups.
Rye stressed that it was important that infections of Covid-19 be contained in critical areas in order to prevent the disease from spreading further to nearby places.
“We cut-off the head first and we will see if how this will drastically reduce infections. This is a proposal. Our plan should be flexible. It should be calibrated every now and then look at the situation in the country,” the OCTA professor pointed out.
Meanwhile, health undersecretary and treatment czar Dr. Leopoldo Vega is encouraging the public to wear two face masks at a time to stave off more infectious variants of Covid-19.
“More important is how we are going to respond to the increasing crisis right now. You have to enhance it (health protocols). If there is double masking, then you have to double mask. You have to do all of the things that the minimum health standard requires,” Vega enthused.
Based on findings released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask substantially improves protection from the virus.
Other than providing an additional protective layer, the cloth mask improves fit when worn over a surgical mask, thereby enhancing protection.
While N95 masks are still the gold standard in virus protection, the CDC research suggests that when a person ‘double masks’ and the people in the same area did the same, the risk of virus transmission drops to about 95 percent.
However, health secretary Francisco Duque III countered that a face mask and a face shield already provide sufficient protection, cautioning the public that he also does not recommend double masking for individuals with respiratory problems such as chronic lung disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.
“Kahit isang face mask lang basta may face shield malaki na ang proteksyon niyan at saka physical distancing. Kapag naka-physical distancing kayo more than 90 percent protection, malaking bagay,” Duque concluded. (AI/MTVN)