The Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday, July 31, that its recovery criteria for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients is based on scientific evidence and is also being done in other countries.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the assurance after DOH announced on Thursday night the country’s highest reported recoveries in a day which was at 38,075, as many are questioning the DOH on how it handles the country’s COVID-19 figures.
“This is based on evidence, scientific evidence and experts across the globe have already backed this up and is now being implemented in different countries,” said Vergeire during a press briefing.
Vergeire said that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients should be assessed by a licensed physician as “clinically recovered” and has completed the 14 days isolation from the date of specimen collection (swabhing).
The Health official noted that this is quite similar to the protocol of the United States of America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which requires only 10 days of isolation.
For COVID-19 patients who had symptoms, “the common interpretation would be to wait for clinical recovery such as there is no fever anymore for at least three days– there is clinical improvement,” said Vergeire.
“After the clinically recovered assessment, they would now then add another 14 days which gives us around 21 days from the symptom onset before the patient is classified as recovered,” she added.
To note, the Philippines before required two negative RT-PCR test results from a patient before they can be discharged in hospitals and can be tagged as recovered. Vergeire noted that this method is still being implemented in Vietnam.
“This is what we were implementing before until we changed our protocol because of the evidence that on the 10th day, a patient is no longer infectious,” said Vergeire.
Vergeire noted that RT-PCR test, which is considered the gold standard in detecting the virus that causes COVID-19, “is a basis for infection but not a basis for recovery.”
“The RT-PCR machine detects the virus but it does not tell you if the virus is infectious inside that body….That is one of the reasons why they (other countries) remove testing as a basis for discharging kasi yung iba stays in the hospital for so long because they keep on testing positive. When in fact, sinasabi na ng mga eksperto this might just be remnants of the virus,” said Vergeire.
“Meron na tayong sapat na ebidensya kaya nga nakapagbigay na even WHO (World Health Organization) and the other recognize or reputable agencies across the world, nakapagbigay na ng suporta dito na ang isang tao as long as the symptoms have resolve already, at naka sampung araw na sya on the date of onset of illness, sya ay non-infectious na. Ayun yung pinanghahawakan natin ngayon. [We already have enough evidence. Even the WHO and the other recognized or reputable agencies across the world have been able to provide support to (this evidence) that a person— as long as the symptoms have resolved already, and he has been on the 10th day on the date of onset of illness, he is already non-infectious. That is what we are holding now] That is our basis on our protocols that we are now implementing,” she added.
Vergeire said that their criteria for recovery is not new as this was stated in their Department Memorandum No. 2020-0258 dated May 29.
Believing: A challenge
The Health official urged the public to believe what the experts are saying, when asked on how can the public be assured if those who have recovered will not be able to transmit the virus.
“We have to believe the experts, kung hindi tayo maniniwala sa mga eksperto na iyan, saan pa tayo maniniwala? Wala na tayong pagbabasehan ng siyensya kung hindi tayo maniniwala. But I understand completely na talagang magkakaroon ng ganitong challenge [We have to believe the experts, if we do not believe in those experts, where else will we believe? But I understand completely that there will definitely be such a challenge],” said Vergeire.
“Ito naman talaga binabase natin sa scientific evidence and even around the globe no, wala naman tayong naririnig na balita na yung mga tinagged nila as recovered, as we are now going to do, ay nagkakalat ng infection sa community [This is really based on scientific evidence and even around the globe, we have not heard any news that those they tagged as recovered, as we are now going to do, are spreading the infection to the community],” she added.
Vergeire said that COVID-19 survivors should also observe the minimum health standards.
“We must always comply with minimum health standards. Even with the people tagged as recovered, when they go out to the community, they should wear their mask, observe physical distancing, wash hands frequently as an additional safeguard,” she added.
As of this writing, the Philippines has 89,374 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 65,064 recoveries, and a death toll of 1,983.