AS OF this writing, the Philippines has already more than 23,000 Covid-19 infections, almost twice as that of South Korea which was the hotspot in the early days of the pandemic. Other countries like the United States and Great Britain have also exceeded the numbers of China, the source of the Covid-19 disease.

On the other hand, Vietnam and Taiwan are being praised for their low infection rate, with Vietnam even having zero casualties, thanks to their swift response. Vietnam prepared for the outbreak before it recorded its first case. It recorded its first two cases on January 28 on flights from China. It then suspended all flights from mainland China on February 1 followed by all international flights on March 25. In Taiwan, Dr. Mei-Shang Ho, president of the Taiwan Health Corporation, said early action in border control helped contain the spread of the virus.

A study from epidemiological researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, now in press with the CDC's journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, has found that places that took longer to begin implementing social distancing measures spent more time with the virus rapidly spreading than others that acted more quickly.

The researchers studied Covid-19 outbreaks in 58 cities throughout China and analyzed when first cases were detected, when social distancing measures were implemented and when the outbreak was considered contained. The team found that every day a city delayed in implementing social distancing measures after the appearance of a first case added 2.4 days to the length of the outbreak.

The Philippines had its first case on January 30, 2020, with a 38-year-old female Chinese national. President Rodrigo Duterte enforced a ban on inbound tourists from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau on February 2. However, when the first local transmission of Covid-19 was confirmed on March 07, the Enhanced Community Quarantine was started only in March 15. That is a delay of eight (8) days. Multiply that by 2.4 days, that's an additional 19 days to the length of the outbreak. If we reckon it from the time the first case was confirmed on January 30, that's a delay of 45 days which translates to an additional 108 days of outbreak.

The research also said that the findings are applicable both to communities experiencing their first outbreaks and those that may see a resurgence in the coming months. This is a good basis for local government units to implement immediate localize lockdowns after the appearance of a confirmed Covid-19 case.

The study was not able to determine which social distancing measures were most effective, but it showed that the timing of the first measure, regardless of the type, had a big impact.

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Happy Independence Day everyone! I hope we will be free from this Covid-19 disease soon.