WHO worries over ‘very slowly increasing’ rate of PH’s COVID-19 cases
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Philippine representative on Tuesday said the increase in the country’s COVID-19 positivity rate is “worrying” since the uptick suggests a continuing transmission of the virus.
“What is worrying is that the proportion of positive cases is very slowly increasing,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO’s country representative to the Philippines, said during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) online forum.
“This is worrying, this shows that there is continuing transmission,” he added.
He noted that the positivity rate of coronavirus cases in the Philippines increased to up to 7.8 percent as of Monday from the 6.5 percent recorded last week.
The positivity rate is the percentage of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus out of the total number of individuals tested.
The Philippines has so far confirmed over 57,000 COVID-19 cases, including 20,371 recoveries and 1,599 deaths. The government’s testing czar said one million tests have already been conducted in the country.
However, Abeyasinghe emphasized that “detecting large numbers” of positive cases “since they’re out” is “actually a good thing.”
He said this helps health authorities “identify who is infected in what situations and will guide the conduct tracing and suppression of further transmission.”
“This is also reflected by the increased number of admissions that are happening in the hospitals,” he said.
“So, while we are concerned with the large increased number of positives, it is also a reflection of the capacity of the country to test more samples,” the WHO official added.
Abeyasinghe suggested that the government expand its testing capacity and ramp up contact tracing efforts.
“It’s still imperative that we use the increased testing capacity, to use that information not only to identify patients but also to identify who has been exposed to it, who else is potentially infected. Then quarantine and isolate those people so that we can arrest for the spread,” he added.
Relaxing restrictions ‘necessary’
Meanwhile, Abeyasinghe recognized the need for the government to relax quarantine restrictions to open up the economy.
“We are aware of increasing transmission in the National Capital Region and this is not something unique to the Philippines. As countries relax their stringent quarantine measures, people come into more contact with each other,” he said.
“And so, most countries that relax these restrictions see an upsurge of cases. What is important is that we recognize that relaxation of the stringent measures are necessary because the stringent lockdown comes at a huge socioeconomic cost, which countries need to manage,” he added.
He, nevertheless, reminded that health protocols should still be strictly followed.
“We are aware that the Philippines needs to open up its economy. It’s about how we manage the pandemic, how we manage the rising number of cases while getting the economy open,” he said.
“The response of the government has been very welcome but this also needs to be supported by each and every one of us, who have a responsibility. Physical distancing, practicing cough etiquette, frequent hand washing are key behaviors that everybody needs to continually follow if we want to get the economy moving,” Abeyasinghe added.
The WHO representative also commended the Philippines for taking “proactive measures” and enforcing quarantine restrictions.
“The Philippines used the period of the lockdown and continues to use this period to strengthen its capacity for testing,” he said.
“We started with one laboratory that could test a few hundred swabs or samples, we are now at almost 80 laboratories. And as you increase the testing capacity, if the virus is out there, you expect that to be detected,” he added.
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