Increased health system capacity, better tracing efficiency boost PH COVID-19 response – DOH

The Department of Health (DOH) said that the Philippines’ response against the coronavirus disease pandemic has improved, noting that several factors are considered when assessing the country’s efforts in dealing with the health crisis.


DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire emphasized this after data from US-based Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center showed that the Philippines is currently in the 20th spot for countries with the most number of COVID-19 cases.

“We don't just look at numbers when we look at how we are faring in this response,” said Vergeire during an online forum Friday.

“We might be in the top 20 among all of the countries in the world in the number of cases but when we look at our health system capacity – it has improved tremendously,” she emphasized.

Vergeire noted that hospitals in the country were able to increase their capacity in accommodating COVID-19 patients, while the contact-tracing efforts have become more “efficient.”

“Before, we had difficulty accommodating patients in our hospitals. We even reached a point wherein patients had to wait outside the hospital, while some did not have the chance to even reach the hospital. Now, we have already expanded our units in our hospitals,” she said.

“We were able to increase the proportion or number that LGUs (local government units) are tracing. The LGUs used to trace only two to three contacts, now it reaches five to 10. Now, tracing is no longer confined to households. The tracing efforts have expanded and they are now looking at other close contacts of an individual who tested positive,” she added.

The trend of the number of cases reported daily is also decreasing, Vergeire said.

“Our cases are declining. Since August 4, when the NCR and other provinces reverted to MECQ… the daily cases we report continue to decrease, similar to the decreasing trend at the national level. Our cases in NCR continue to decline since August,” said Vergeire.

Vergeire also added that the country’s recovery rate is currently at “80 percent or more” while the case fatality rate is less than two percent.

“Look at the critical mortality rate. We're still at 1.75, which means, that although the numbers are up, we are able to take care of those who get severely and critically ill,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told CNN Philippines’ “The Source” on Friday.

“That, I think, is what matters most because in a pandemic, the fear is that many of us will die. Some are dying, but not as many as other countries," he added.

According to the Palace official, this figure is a good sign that the Philippines is actually doing good.

“It's because we have improved our critical care facilities. We have learned from the past and we know how to take care of COVID-19 patients better,” Roque said.

“It’s not just the numbers. We have to look at the other variables. We have to focus on the active cases and not the cumulative number of cases. So, whatever would be this ranking across the globe, this is because of the totality of the number of cases,” said Vergeire.

“But when we look at our active cases, our recovery rate, case fatality rate, and looking at our health system capacity, we can see that we have improved,” she added.

Vergeire said that the government is also observing the responses of other countries in handling the pandemic.

“We look at experiences from other countries. If it’s not feasible, we find ways on how the address the health problem so we can further open the economy without compromising the safety of our citizens,” she said.

“Even our experts will always be referring sa best practices of other countries is its applicable us here. But we have to carefully assess it as our systems, structure, political, and social environment are not the same. There are best practices which we can adopt, but there are some that are not applicable in the Philippines,” she added.

Vergeire said that there is a possibility that the number of cases will still increase as the government is now gradually reopening the country’s economy.

“Of course, there are concerns that the cases may increase but we should see to it that the enforcement of strict compliance with minimum health standards should be in place,” she said.

“As we always say, we have to learn to live with the virus. Everyone needs to comply (with the minimum health standards) to avoid being infected,” she added.

The Philippines has 316,678 confirmed cases as of October 2. Of these, 56,445 are active cases.

The number of those who have recovered is at 254,617 while the death toll is at 5,616. (With a report from Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)