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DOH now basing virus response on clusters

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 04:50 AM August 15, 2020

Instead of the case doubling time as a metric to determine the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government will now look into clusters of infections as well as the weekly trend of cases.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country’s experts opted for these indicators as they have observed that the doubling time in the COVID-19 tally—or the period of time it takes for the number of cases to double—was “no longer sensitive, especially as the trend of cases continues to rise.”

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“We are now using the numbers, the clustering of cases, and also the trends per week. That’s what we are using…now, plus the critical care utilization,” Vergeire said in an online press briefing on Friday.

“If we see rising trends, and in select areas, the critical care [utilization rate] is at the danger zone, we will continue to monitor and remind the public that they need to do their part. This is because we are seeing increases in community transmission and clustering of cases,” she said.

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Time-based tagging

The nationwide case doubling time as of last Monday was 9.26 days, slower than the 6.26 days recorded on June 1 when the government started to pull back strict quarantine measures, even as total cases grew to over 136,000 on Monday from just under 19,000 on June 1.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) as of Friday show that there are 380 clusters of infection in Metro Manila, of which 305 are in communities and 34 in health facilities.

Calabarzon has 174 case clusters, and Central Visayas, 171.

Vergeire also said there will be another round of “time-based tagging” of patients who have recovered from COVID-19, starting on Sunday.

She said, explaining this procedure: “We have the clinical criteria and the completion of 14 days isolation from the onset of illness or from the time of the patient’s swabbing. If we look at their outcome and they don’t have one, we will tag them as recovered already.”

Vergeire said time-based tagging is also being applied in coronavirus monitoring in the United States, Europe, and India.

She said this will be a regular occurrence every week to avoid “bulk announcements,” since a lot of mild and asymptomatic patients have no recorded outcomes.

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“But the safeguard would be, before we do that, our regional offices, through their specific local governments, will determine if the patient is still an active case or not. We have that validation [system] before we can do that,” Vergeire said.

In July alone, the DOH and also the national government drew skepticism for the variations in their interpretations of the data on the pandemic.

Late that month, the DOH was criticized for reporting a considerable increase in COVID-19 recoveries, in accordance with the World Health Organization’s updated criteria on May 27 that asymptomatic patients may be released after quarantine without testing.

Early in July, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government would be highlighting the number of active cases as opposed to the total cases because “nonactive cases don’t matter,” he said.

Additional cases

The DOH recorded on Friday an additional 6,216 cases, pushing the national tally to 153,660.

Of the new cases submitted by 98 out of 103 accredited laboratories, 3,848 came from Metro Manila. Laguna was a far second with 302, followed by Rizal (242), Cavite (240), and Bulacan (178).

All these areas were placed back on modified enhanced community quarantine early this month as the health system began to be overwhelmed by the continued rise in infections. President Duterte is expected to announce new quarantine levels on Monday next week.

Majority of the new cases, or 4,973, fell ill between Aug. 1 and 14; and 1,105 between July 1 and 31.

There are now a total of 79,813 active cases, of which 91.1 percent are mild; 7.3 percent, asymptomatic; 0.6 percent, severe; and 1 percent, critical.

An additional 1,038 patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 71,405.

The death toll increased to 2,442 as 16 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.

Of the newly reported deaths, eight died in August, four in July, three in April and one in May.

As of Friday, half of all COVID-19 dedicated beds nationwide are currently occupied, and 30 percent of around 2,100 mechanical ventilators are in use.

In Metro Manila, 75 percent of its 542 intensive care beds, 71 percent of 3,700 isolation beds, and 81 percent of 1,700 ward beds are currently occupied. And of the 836 mechanical ventilators in the capital region, 46 percent are in use.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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