By Analou De Vera and Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines exceeded 16,000 Friday as the Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,046 additional infections.
The DOH said there are now 16,634 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. Of these, 46 are “fresh cases,” meaning test results released to patients in the last three days. The 1,000 cases are “late cases,” meaning recently validated test results which were released to patients “more than four days” ago.
Twenty-one succumbed to the disease raising the death toll to 942, while 122 more patients recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,720.
Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a Viber message to reporters, said the public should expect the number of cases to increase in the coming days “until we can validate all that are to be validated.”
“Once all have been validated, we can now just have ‘fresh’ cases. Hopefully, no more delays and only fresh cases are left to be reported,” she added.
Vergeire said the spike in the number of reported cases is due to the health agency’s improved validation process “as a result of an increase in disease surveillance officers.”
“Additionally, the recent rollout of [the] COVIDKAYA information system, a fully automated data collection platform, has also helped the department receive fast live updates from hospitals and laboratories across the Philippines,” she said.
The DOH also announced Friday it will revise its manner of reporting the number of COVID-19 cases to prevent confusion.
“Kung noon ang pinapakita namin ay simpleng bilang lang ng mga navavalidate na kaso ng epidemiology bureau, simula ngayon hahatiin na ang mga numero upang ipakita kung ilan ang fresh or newly validated case kada araw at ihihiwalay ang late or nagmula sa delayed reporting (If before, we presented the the simple numbers of cases validated by the epidemiology bureau, this time, we will divide the numbers to show the ‘fresh’ or newly validated cases each day and we will separate the late numbers, or those that arose out of delayed reporting),” Vergeire said.
“Ang fresh cases ay mga kasong kakalabas lamang ng laboratory results sa loob ng 3 araw na nakalipas (Fresh cases are those whose laboratory results were released over the past three days),” Vergeire said.
“Ang validation process ay nagsisiguro na wala tayong magagawang double counting (The validation processes ensures that we don’t do double counting),” she added.
The change in the manner of case reporting came after concerns were raised following the spike in the number of cases last Thursday.
“Ang aming reporting ay nakasalalay kung gaano kaaga isa-submit ng hospital or local government units ang data dito sa DOH. Within the day, pagdating ng datos sa atin, agad natin itong vina-validate (Our reporting is based on how early the hospitals or local government units submit data to the DOH. Within the day, when the data comes in, we validate it immediately),” Vergeire said.
‘Curve is on a deceleration phase’
With the country’s increasing testing capacity and doctors’ improving capability to treat the coronavirus, Metro Manila is ready to shift to general community quarantine (GCQ) by Monday,” according to National Task Force for COVID-19 special adviser Dr. Teodoro Herbosa.
“The reason why we are opening up is because we already have the capacity to conduct 11,000 to 12,000 tests per day. We have already built quarantine facilities, in addition to our hospitals. Our doctors are better in treating COVID patients that is why the number of disease recoveries is now higher than the number of deaths,” Herbosa told DZBB in an interview Saturday.
Herbosa, however, clarified that easing restrictions does not mean the epidemic is over. It is only meant to open up the economy, he added.
He advised the public to continue observing public health measures, such as physical distancing in public places, hand washing, and wearing facemask due to a continuing threat of community transmission.
“The epidemic curve is on a deceleration phase. All figures from different models, from the Department of Health, as well as independent modelers such as those from the University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas, show a deceleration in the number of cases but transmission is still there,” Herbosa explained.
Experts called “bioinformatics modelers” study the progression of an epidemic by using mathematical models.
Three indicators are usually studied by the experts, he furthered.
First, if the number of deaths is lower than the seven-day average, that means the number of cases is also going down, the medical adviser said.
The second indicator is the reproductive time varying number. If the reproductive number is 1, it means that there is still a continued transmission of the disease. Metro Manila is slightly below at 0.9.
The third and last indicator is the doubling time of total confirmed COVID-19 cases. When we started in March, the doubling time of cases was two days, but now it takes about seven days to double, according to the Department of Health, Herbosa pointed out.
“Nakatulong talaga yung ECQ (The enhanced community quarantine was really helpful),” he said.
Herbosa said the increasing number of daily cases should not be a cause for alarm since these are just backlog cases.