MANILA, Mar 25 (Mabuhay) — The government implementation of the “National Capital Region (NCR) Plus” bubble should be given a chance, but imposing modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) must be considered should the COVID-19 surge continue, an OCTA Research fellow said Thursday.

OCTA Research fellow Prof. Ranjit Rye explained that the effectiveness of NCR Plus Bubble as “stop-gap measure” will only be seen after three to four weeks.

Pagbigyan natin ang bubble, pagbigyan natin ‘yung ginagawa ng gobyerno ngayon. I-test natin kasi ito po ay stop-gap measure lang po. Tingnan natin kung may epekto siya (Let us give this bubble and our goverment a chance. This is a stop-gap measure. Let’s see if this will work),” Rye said.

Should the NCR Plus bubble fail to stop the momentum of COVID-19 surge by next week, he said the government must consider imposing MECQ for two weeks.

The OCTA research fellow warned that the current COVID-19 surge in the country may “wash away” all the efforts to contain the virus.

“Last year was like a walk in the park and is nothing compared to the increase and seriousness of this year’s surge,” he said in Filipino.

“Mas grabe ang dinadanas natin ngayon at ang sinasabi natin lahat ng pinaghirapan natin may potential na maisantabi (What we experienced this year is worse than last  year). All our gains will be washed away if this surge is left uncontrolled,” he added.

Rye insisted that the Philippine economy will not collapse even if the government imposes MECQ similar to the one imposed last August 2020 after health workers called for a “timeout.”

He explained that the reimposition of MECQ in August last year has helped the reopening of the economy during the last quarter of 2020.

“Ang gusto naming iklaro sa presentation ni Secretary Karl Chua, ang gusto naming ilinaw e wala kaming complaint except nakalimutan ang very important (detail). Kaya tayo nakapagbukas nung last quarter ng 2020 e dahil nag-MECQ po tayo nung August,” he said.

“Klaro ang World Health Organization d’yan e, kapag na-manage natin ang transmission du’n lang tayo makakapagbukas ng ekonomiya. ‘Yan ang playbook ng ibang bansa that had to deal with variant-driven surge kagaya nung sa atin,” he added.

If the government will impose MECQ anew, Rye said there should be intensified testing, tracing, and isolation, and the cooperation of the civil society and the private sector.

The OCTA proposal for MECQ will still include lockdowns, transportation for workers, and cash aid for affected poor households affected.

The research fellow expressed confidence that the economy will regain its strength if the transmission is contained, adding that the imposition of MECQ is just the right time as COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in the country.

On Thursday, OCTA Research Group’s March 25 report said the reproduction number was down to 1.91 from 1.99.

However, OCTA said this number is not yet an indication of continuous decrease in the reproduction number in Metro Manila following the imposition of National Capital Region Plus Bubble.

The reproduction number refers to the number of people that one COVID-19 case can infect.

Recently, the Philippine government has placed NCR and nearby provinces— Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, and Rizal— under a bubble to mitigate the COVID-19 surge in the country.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Health reported 6,666 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total tally to 684,311.

The number of active cases in the country set another record-high 91,754 for this year.(MNS)

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