MANILA - A sweeping lockdown across much of the Philippines has succeeded in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, with recent numbers suggesting a "flattening of the curve", a leading health expert and technical adviser to the government said on Tuesday (May 5).
Dr John Wong, an epidemiologist and an analyst for a task force overseeing efforts to check the pandemic, said the data support a gradual lifting of draconian quarantine measures now in place in metropolitan Manila.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a separate briefing, said recent cases had not exceeded 300.
"In a way, we can say it has begun to flatten," he said.
He said restrictions may be eased based on a "confluence of factors" - the speed of the outbreak, the government capacity to care for those who are sick and the economy.
"So, for as long as we have sufficient critical care facilities for those who get sick, we cannot ignore the fact that we need to revive the economy," said Mr Roque.
The data showed that "the speed has slowed down considerably", said Dr Wong.
"For the past 1 ½ months, (the government) has been working on increasing the health system capacity," he added.
The Philippines had recorded 9,684 cases of Covid-19 as of Tuesday, while 637 have died.
The data Dr Wong presented during the Health Ministry's virtual briefing referred to cases from March 5 and until late April.
The Ministry had tested 123,574 individuals as at May 3. It aims to conduct 8,000 tests daily, but has yet to exceed 5,500.
Hospitals are far from overstretched with plenty of capacity in general wards and ICUs while around only a quarter of ventilator stocks are being used.
The government eased restrictions on May 1 in some areas on the main island of Luzon with little or no Covid-19 cases.
It is expected to further wind back the lockdown in Metro Manila and in 17 provinces by May 15.
But some towns and cities have asked that quarantine measures stay in place until at least mid-May.
Luzon, which is the size of South Korea and spans half the Philippines' population, has been effectively shut off since mid-March.
All domestic flights and sea travel, except for those transporting essential goods, have been suspended.
Companies have wound down and sent their workers home, except for those providing food and medicine, utilities, banks, telcos and logistics firms.