By Analou De Vera
The number of patients who have already recovered from the dreaded coronavirus disease (COVID-19) increased to 9,430 after 249 more were reported Saturday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the number of recoveries is expected to increase in the coming days because of the recent change in discharging protocol for COVID-19 patients.
She also reported 738 more COVID-19 cases, bring the total to 34,803 as of June 27.
Of the 738 new cases, the Department of Health (DOH) said 560 are “fresh” cases or patients who tested positive within the last three days; and 178 are considered “late” cases or test results released four days ago or earlier but only validated recently.
The DOH also reported 12 new fatalities, bringing the country’s total death toll to 1,236.
Under the discharging protocol, there will no longer be repeat tests.
“Tinanggal na natin ang basehan na (repeat) test sa pagta-tag ng recoveries, mas mapapabilis po, mas dadami ang maitatala natin na recovered [We removed the (repeat) test in our protocol in tagging recoveries and with this, we can record more patients who have recovered],” said Vergeire in a press briefing Saturday.
In discharging patients, the DOH has shifted to the “symptoms-based approach,” meaning if they do not exhibit symptoms at all for three days already and they are now on their 10th day since they got ill, their physicians can already clear them for discharge.
The patient, however, needs to undergo another 14-day home quarantine before he or she can be tagged as “recovered.” This change in protocol is backed by new evidence, said Vergeire.
Vergeire said that the RT-PCR method, which is considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing, is “not a measure of cure,” and is sensitive that it can detect even the remnants of the virus. This explains why some patients still yield positive results although they are already “non-infectious,” she said.
1 million tests by end of July
Vergeire expressed optimism that the DOH would be able to achieve their target of conducting one million tests by the end of July.
“We are seeing na ma-attain natin itong 1 million na ito pagdating ng end of July because as of now, we already have about 600,000 plus na nate-test na po sa buong Pilipinas mula nung nag umpisa tayo mag-test [We are seeing that we can reach this 1 million by the end of July because as of now, we already have had about 600,000 plus tests conducted around the Philippines since we started testing],” she said.
Based on the latest DOH Situationer report, there are already 662,085 tests conducted, while the total number of unique individuals tested is 609,327, as of June 25.
The test goal was previously announced by Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) head Vince Dizon as more laboratories are being accredited to conduct testing for COVID-19.
As of June 25, there are 68 licensed laboratories in the country that can perform COVID-19 testing.
Behavior a key factor
Despite the growing number of cases, the country is “not hopeless and could be mitigated through continued behavior change,” said DOH Health Promotion and Communication Service Director Dr. Beverly Ho.
She said the public must follow infection control and prevention measures.
“According to studies, kung magsuot ka ng mask, mababawasan ang tsansang mahawa by 85 percent. Kung io-observe mo ang physical distancing ng isang metro, mababawasan ang tsansang mahawa by 80 percent. Kung mag-face shield ka naman, mababawasan ang tsansang mahawa by 78 percent [According to studies, if you wear a mask, this reduces the chance of infection by 85 percent. If you observe physical distancing of one meter, the chance of infection is reduced by 80 percent. If you wear a face shield, it reduces the risk of infection by 78 percent],” she said.