PH has ‘low’ number of COVID-19 cases despite limited testing – Duque

By: Daphne Galvez - Inquirer.net - Inquirer.net | April 09,2020 - 10:38 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The number of confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Philippines, despite limited testing, is relatively “low” compared to other countries, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Thursday in a briefing led by President Rodrigo Duterte.

According to Duque, the country’s COVID-19 incidence is two for every one million of the population.

This is because of the government-imposed travel ban to China, where the novel coronavirus originated, and because of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed over the whole island of Luzon, as well as some other areas in the country, he said.

The Luzon-wide quarantine, originally scheduled to end on April 14, has been extended to April 30.

So far, as of 4 p.m. on April 8, the Philippines has 3,870 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 182 fatalities and 96 recoveries.

Meanwhile, as of 4 p.m. on April 8, more than 1.45 million individuals globally that have contracted the coronavirus, with 83,615 deaths and 308,757 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus board.

“‘Pag ihahambing natin ang bilang ng mga may impeksyon sa Pilipinas, isa tayo sa pinakamababa na bilang…  Itong bilang na ito, lumalabas dalawa ang total case per one million population,” Duque said in a press briefing early morning Thursday.

[If we compare the number of infections in the Philippines, we are one of the lowest. This number, as it turns out, is only in a two-in-a-million population ratio.]

“Ito ay nagsasalamin ng mga desisyon na ginawa ng ating mahal na Pangulo. Ito ‘yung ating absolute travel restriction na binaba ng ating Pangulo doon sa mga manggalgaling sa bansang China noong Pebrero. Pangalawa ay ang lockdown o enhanced community quarantine,” he added.

[This reflects the decisive measures ordered by the President, which is the absolute travel restriction to China and the enhanced community quarantine imposed over Luzon.]

Duque’s statements ran contrary to those earlier released by the Department of Health (DOH).

His special assistant, Beverly Ho, earlier said in a virtual press briefing that the impact of the ECQ would only be learned by mid-April as it was too early to tell whether it had a role in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also said that, before the “true picture” of the COVID-19 pandemic could be determined, the testing capacity of the country must first stabilize — meaning it must be able to conduct 8,000 to 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day.

It was only recently that the government was able to expand its testing capacity.

So far, eight laboratories can conduct at least 1,710 COVID-19 tests a day. The DOH is aiming to conduct at least 3,000 tests a day by April 14 and 8,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Duque himself said that it would be “premature” to tell if the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide had already peaked.

“Kailangan natin ng sufficient epidemiological data ng COVID-19. Kasi nga, ‘di ba, nagkaroon tayo ng malaking kakulangan sa testing so hindi pa ganoon kalinaw yung tunay na litrato ng COVID-19 sa Pilipinas,” he said in an interview at AM radio station dzBB.

[We need sufficient epidemiological data of COVID-19. We experienced a  shortage in testing. So the picture of the COVID-19 crisis is not yet that clear.]

Testing for COVD-19 in the country had been limited as the DOH syas there’s a global shortage of COVID-19 testing kits.

According to its latest data, the DOH has conducted a total of 22,958 tests for COVID-19, of which 16,615 or 82.7 percent turned out to be negative, while 3,414 or 16.9 percent were positive. 

The government had only been targeting patients exhibiting symptoms of the disease, but there were confirmed cases that the patients were asymptomatic.

The DOH explained that the mass testing that the government was planning to conduct starting April 14 would  not mean that every person in the country would have to undergo COVID-19 testing.

It only means that those with symptoms and exposure to COVID-positive patients — persons under investigation and monitoring — will be tested, as in the earlier procedure.


For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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