‘Interpret with caution’ as PH tops Covid lists
The Department of Health (DOH) advised the public on Friday to “interpret with caution” the Philippines’ new distinction as the country with the most number of total and active coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in both Southeast Asia and the larger Western Pacific region.
Monitoring by the Johns Hopkins University showed that the Philippines currently ranks 23rd worldwide and leads in Southeast Asia with the most number of COVID-19 cases at 122,754 as of Friday afternoon, followed by Indonesia with 118,753 cases.
Active cases in the Philippines are also the highest in Southeast Asia at 50,473.
In the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 22-member Western Pacific region, the Philippines has the most number of cases and has the second-highest number of deaths next to China, where the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated.
In her press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there was nothing wrong with benchmarking the country’s situation with that of its neighbors, but this should be done in the proper context.
“We have to be very cautious when we try to compare our numbers with the other countries. We have different populations, settings, and types of health systems…We need to consider the capacity of each country, the population,” she said.
She cited the case of Singapore, whose total caseload stands at 54,797, of which 6,760 remain active. Vergeire said that while the city-state ranks third overall in Southeast Asia, its cases per million population is higher than that of the Philippines.
“When you look at Singapore, they have fewer cases but when we compute it per million population, they are at more than 9,000 [cases] per million population. Compared to the Philippines, we’re at about 1,000 [cases] per million. This is why we have to interpret this with caution when we do our analysis,” Vergeire said.
The DOH earlier attributed the high number of cases in the country to its increased testing capacity, “having tested more unique individuals than its economically advanced neighbor countries.”
As of Aug. 5, a total of 1,667,831 samples from over 1.5 million people have been tested.
An average of 29,000 tests per day were done in the last week. The DOH said this was “significantly higher” than the average of 14,200 tests per day in Indonesia.
The agency also pointed out that “The Philippines’ total number of tests conducted relative to its population size is 1.5 percent, a significantly higher percentage compared to Indonesia which has tested around 0.34 percent of its total population.”
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque raised the same point in his press briefing. “If you look at the population of the two countries, the tests conducted relative to our population is 1.5 percent. Compare that to 0.34 percent of Indonesia,” he said.
He added, “This means that because of aggressive testing, it’s not true that we have more cases than Indonesia. Indonesians just don’t know who are sick among them. At least, we now know where the sick here are.”
“Our policy is [that] we will intensify our testing because we want to know where the cases are, isolate and trace their contacts, and treat them,” Roque said.
But Mike Ryan, WHO emergencies program executive director, said earlier that if hospitalizations and deaths increase at the same time as cases do, that situation is no longer driven by improved testing capacity.
He said: “It’s important to look at increased numbers, to examine where those increased numbers are happening, who are those increased numbers happening to, can it be explained by increased testing, is the health system starting to come under pressure? And if it is, you need to act, to protect the health system, and to suppress infection.”
Another notable trend is the steady rise in the country’s positivity rate, or the percentage of people who have tested positive for the virus from all those who underwent testing.
The daily positivity rate has steadily climbed from 8.9 percent on July 1 to 14.1 percent on Tuesday, the highest since quarantine measures were eased in June. On Friday, the recorded positivity rate was 9.74 percent.
Virus case update
The DOH recorded an additional 3,379 cases which increased the current national caseload of 122,754.
Of the new cases submitted by 89 out of the 99 accredited laboratories, more than half or 1,846 came from Metro Manila. Rizal was a far second with 314 cases, followed by Laguna (276), Cavite (145), and Quezon (66).
The DOH said that 2,774 of the new cases reported being ill between July 25 and Aug. 7, while 584 fell sick between July 1 and 24.
There are currently 53,734 active cases, of which 91.4 percent are mild, 7.3 percent are asymptomatic, 0.7 percent are severe and 0.5 percent are critical.
A total of 66,852 patients have recovered from COVID-19 with the addition of 96 recovered patients.
The death toll rose to 2,168 as 24 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.
Of the newly reported deaths, one died this month, four in July, eight each in May and June, one in April and two in March.
Fourteen of the fatalities were from Central Visayas, nine from Metro Manila, and one from Western Visayas.
The country’s case-fatality rate went down to 1.77 percent from 1.98 percent Monday, but the virus’ reproductive number climbed to 1.3 from 0.95 in the same period.—WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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