DOH sees decline in coronavirus cases
MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippines moves closer to becoming one of the top 20 countries with the highest overall number of COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health (DOH) stressed on Monday that at least four in five infected patients have already recovered.
On Monday, the DOH logged 3,073 additional cases, bringing the national tally to 307,288. Within the week, the Philippines is seen surpassing Italy as the 20th country with the most number of new coronavirus infections.
Monitoring by Johns Hopkins University showed that Italy’s total cases currently stands at 309,870. The southern European country saw its health system on the brink of collapse in March due to the surge in the number of infections that mainly affected its elderly population.
When Philippine authorities announced the lockdown of Luzon in mid-March, the situation in Italy was cited as an example why there was a need to close down the Philippines’ main island.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire pointed out on Monday that while total cases were now at more than 300,000, it must be understood that at least four in five patients had already recovered.
“We have to look at the whole picture. When we say that we already have this certain number of cases, we need to look at how many are active cases, how many have recovered,” Vergeire said.
“When we look at the number of cases right now, even though we are at that point where we have 300,000, our recovery is at 83 percent. Many have already recovered, many [of the active cases] are mild and asymptomatic,” she added.
As of Monday, 252,665 people had recovered from COVID-19, with the recovery of 163 more patients. Of the new cases, 2,800 fell ill between Sept. 15 and 28, while 188 got sick between Sept. 1 and 14.
The death toll rose to 5,381 as 37 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease. Of the newly reported deaths, 26 died this month, five in August, four in July, and one each in May and April. The fatalities were from Western Visayas (21), Metro Manila (8), Calabarzon (4), Soccsksargen (2), Central Luzon (1) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (1).
The recoveries and deaths left the country with 49,242 active cases, of which 86.4 percent were mild, 8.7 percent asymptomatic, 1.5 percent severe, and 3.4 percent critical.
Vergeire explained that among the reasons new daily cases were still in the thousands was the clustering of cases in communities and the expansion of testing capability.
“There are a lot of positives being detected now. Our local governments are very active in surveillance. They are able to identify those with symptoms, test them immediately, allowing for the better management of patients. These are the things we are looking at why we are seeing an increase in cases in certain parts of the country,” she said.
Vergeire credited changes in the DOH’s strategy in fighting the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 for the downward trend in infections. Among these were the setting up of a hospital referral system and coordinated operations for the identification and isolation of cases.
Vergeire said local governments were also actively monitoring cases, referring patients unable to quarantine at home to temporary treatment centers.
“So all of these things taken together, we think that these have had a good effect in our response,” she said.
According to DOH data, the weekly average of new cases in September dropped when compared with last month’s. In August, at least 29,000 new infections were reported each week.
But this month, the average weekly cases peaked at just a little more than 27,000 during the Sept. 8 to 14 period, and dropped to a low of a little over 18,000 during the Sept. 22 to 28 period.
In August, there were an average of 4,209 cases daily. Average daily cases dipped to 3,144 this month.
Vergeire, however, stressed that the apparent decline in the number of new cases should not lull the public into complacency, especially as there are still areas in the country with slight increases in infections.
“When we look at the average trend per week, yes we can see that it is decreasing. But there are still … areas that report increases. That’s why we always say that we cannot be complacent at this point,” Vergeire said. “[Observance of] the minimum health standards should still be there and we must remain vigilant,” she added.
As of Sept. 27, the DOH had detected 2,075 infection clusters, of which 84 percent, or 1,749, were in communities. More than a quarter of the clusters, or 566, were in Metro Manila.
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