COVID-19 cases keep rising due to more tests, ignored measures – DOH
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday attributed the rise in COVID-19 cases to its increased testing capacity and the public’s failure to comply with the minimum health standards it set to control the spread of the new coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory disease.
According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the increase in the number of people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus of COVID-19, was due in part to continuing transmission of the pathogen in communities because of “lack of implementation of minimum health standards.”
“We appeal to everyone to always comply with our minimum health standards such as wearing masks, frequent hand-washing and physical distancing, especially in enclosed areas and in places without proper ventilation,” Vergeire said.
Health measures“We expect cases to continue to rise as we open up because there is more contact between people and a lot still forget to observe our minimum health protocols,” she said.
Vergeire reiterated that strict compliance with the health measures was necessary, especially that recent studies found a mutation of the virus, which makes it more infectious.
Earlier, Dr. Edsel Salvana, infectious disease expert and DOH technical advisory group member, said the D614G mutation “makes the virus more infectious.” This means it can spread faster and overwhelm the country’s health system “if we don’t double our control efforts.”
“Mutations do occur with [the] COVID-19 virus, and this particular one is now more common in the world and seems to be more infectious. We are continuing to monitor this development and our scientists are sequencing some of our local viruses as we speak,” Vergeire said.
“Again, our safety protocols must be strengthened … Let us continue to limit our travel to only essential ones,” she added.
On Tuesday, the DOH reported an additional 1,540 infections, bringing the nationwide tally to 47,873. Of the new cases recorded from 69 of the 74 accredited laboratories, 993 were patients who tested positive within the last three days. Metro Manila recorded the highest number of these cases, 428, followed by Central Visayas, which had 109.
The remainder of the new cases, or 547, were patients who tested positive four days ago or earlier. Metro Manila also had the most number of these cases, 191, while Central Visayas had 65.
There are now a total 12,386 patients who have recovered from COVID-19 with the recovery of 201 more patients.
The death toll, however, rose to 1,309 as six patients succumbed from the severe respiratory disease. Three of these patients died in June.
On Sunday, the DOH’s accredited laboratories were able to process 16,180 samples. But a testing backlog of 10,341 remained.
Commenting on the rising number of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, Sen. Joel Villanueva said the Philippines was not conducting epidemiological surveillance to monitor the spread of the COVID-19 bug in real-time and described the current efforts as “passive surveillance.”
The term refers to a system where the health service just receives reports submitted by hospitals, clinics, public health centers and other sources, Villanueva said, citing a definition by the World Health Organization.
Passive surveillance is an inexpensive way to cover large areas, he said, but it could lead to discrepancies and delays in data.
The government should be doing active surveillance, which would entail gathering information from communities and using the data to come up with a response tailor-fit for the area, he said.
“Our government should take a good hard look at its current strategy. The rising number of cases, especially in the past three days, should … be a red flag. We should make the necessary adjustments immediately because we cannot afford another lockdown,” Villanueva said in a statement.
Reporting numbers daily and apprehending violators of quarantine and health measures are not enough, he said.
The government should look for coronavirus hot spots and conduct random tests to know how wide the virus has spread, he said.
Without active monitoring, people are just surprised by data that shows virus has spread to their area, he said.
Gov’t mishandling crisis
According to Villanueva, the lack of real-time monitoring of the coronavirus shows how health authorities were mishandling the crisis.
He warned that poor handling of the crisis could erode business confidence and hamper government efforts to revive the economy.
“Business confidence is tied with trust in the health sector management. Industries and productive economic sectors won’t risk resuming operations if there is a strong possibility of another lockdown, which would be disastrous for our economy and, consequently, for our workers,” Villanueva said.
Malacañang said the increasing number of coronavirus infections was not surprising, as there was no vaccine yet for COVID-19, and that Filipinos should not worry about it because the majority of the cases were mild or asymptomatic.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Filipinos should learn to “dance” with the virus, that is, learn to live with it because it would be around for a long time.
“The cases may increase, but while we protect our vulnerable, while we observe our minimum health standards, and while we expand our test, trace and treat strategy, we can manage to live amid COVID-19. That is what we should do,” Roque told a press briefing on Tuesday.
He said the government was changing strategy in the fight against the virus by shifting the responsibility of containing it to the local governments, the private sector and the citizens themselves.
Local officials, he said, would now enforce targeted lockdowns—barangay, street or building — where there are infections.
“Yesterday, we met with the Metro Manila mayors. They know the areas with increasing cases of COVID-19 and they are actively closing these down in accordance with our policy of localized lockdowns instead of community lockdowns. That is the big change in our strategy,” Roque said.
He urged businesses to be more active by testing their employees while the government expanded its testing, contact tracing, and isolation and treatment capacity.
—With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Julie M. Aurelio
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