The race is on to ‘flatten the curve’ of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) especially in Iloilo City. As early as December 2019, local leaders who understood the characteristics a corona virus and how it can spread has raised alarm bells over the issue. It took months, however, for real action to set in.
As of today, Iloilo City has yet to get a hold of testing kits in order to operationalize its monitoring effort aimed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Mayor Jerry P. Treñas has expressed frustration on the absence of testing kits from the Dept. of Health at this crucial moment.
Testing kits and an accredited hospitals or medical institutions who can carry out the testing has yet to be established in Western Visayas. Apart from other preventive measures, testing is the first vital step before any actual intervention is applied. This is a component of the strategy to flatten the curve of COVID-19.
Other important components of the strategy are being enforced now: community quarantine with voluntary self-quarantine among citizens; border control with travel restrictions and prohibition of non-essential movement of persons; monitoring protocol of persons under investigation and of persons under monitoring; and, observance of social distancing in the general public.
Undeniably, Local Government Units have different levels of capability as far as effective application of these strategies on their respective contexts and within their political boundaries. These containment strategies are necessary interventions considering the lack of testing kits and the weak health care system of the country.
What is Flatten the Curve? The curve that medical researchers are referring about is a graphical illustration and modeling of a projected number of people who will be infected by COVID-19 over a period of time. It is a theoretical prediction of how it will reach a tipping point, especially if no intervention is employed for prevention or to control its rise.
The curve demonstrates the tendency of a steep curve (going up or exponential increase of infection) and its steep fall (going down with accounting of how many has been infected as it reduces infection rate). A containment strategy such as a community quarantine or a lockdown is being employed to buy time to flatten the curve.
In late 2002, a similar quarantine was enforced due to the spread of SARS-CoV or the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. China has imposed a two month lockdown amidst the spread COVID-19.
Why is Flatten the Curve important? The best way to flatten the curve is through a collective action. This is the reason why government imposed cancellation of all large crowd assemblies and events, including school graduation.
It also encouraged temporary closure of schools, cancellation of church services, work from home, reduced operations time of commercial establishments, and social distancing. All of these are being enforced in Iloilo by the LGUs and by malls, grocery stores, banks, and food chains.
Flattening the curve requires that we lessen the instances with a potential for direct human interaction, It also includes contact tracing for those who have interacted with people suspected to have COVID-19 to prevent the eventual transfer or spread of the virus.
So far two of the countries with excellent interventions are Taiwan and South Korea.
The young can help flatten the curve. Containing young people at home or implementing “shelter in place” can be instrumental in curbing the trajectory of the virus. Pro-active monitoring of COVID-19 cases in South Korea, for instance, have revealed that most positive cases are prevalent among people within 20-29 years old.
But since COVID-19 is asymptomatic (or it doesn’t show symptoms on its early stage) most people that yielded positive with virus after testing were able to recover or that they were the least affected. Yet medical researchers have pointed out that they may be the one who is causing elderly people in their families to contract COVID-19 because their mobility had exposed them on the virus.
As such, the government intensified mandatory testing to cover all its population with a heightened focus on the young age group and on the elderly because of their increased vulnerability.
There is so much to learn about how we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but one thing is for sure, it needs cooperation and collective action. It starts with self-quarantine.