Duque clarifies remark, says PH in ‘1st major wave of sustained transmission’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 22, 2020   •   361

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has clarified that the country is currently experiencing its “first major wave of sustained transmission” of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Duque issued the clarification a day after he stated in a Senate hearing Wednesday that the Philippines is on its second wave of COVID-19 infections.

“Ikinorek ko na nga rin po ang aking sarili na this is the first major wave of a sustained community transmission,” the DOH chief said during a virtual meeting with the House committee on health where he was asked to explain his statement.

Duque, however, maintained that his statement during the Senate hearing was a “casual expression of an epidemiological fact.”

“Indeed, there was a first wave but very small which consisted of just three imported cases in January,” he said, referring to the country’s first three cases, all of whom are Chinese national who travelled from the pandemic’s source, China’s City of Wuhan.

“Then we had nothing for February, and then this was followed by a bigger wave which is now what we consider as first major wave of sustained community transmission,” he added.

“Ang mahalaga po rito, que ito po ay first o second wave, ay iangat natin ang kapasidad po ng ating system mentras napababa natin ang bilang ng mga bagong kaso kada araw,” he further stated.

Duque’s earlier remark triggered public confusion, and prompted Malacañang to clarify his claim.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the country is still in the first wave of infections and that Duque should have informed President Rodrigo Duterte about his interpretation of the COVID-19 data.

The DOH also apologized over the confusion that the Health chief’s statement had caused.

Dr. Beverly Ho, director of DOH Health Promotion and Communications Service, said the country is still on its first wave, at least the one driven by local community transmission.

“Kung matatandaan nyo po, local community transmission happened nung nagsimula po tayong mag-report ng cases ng mga kababayan natin na walang exposure sa mga positive cases o kaya walang travel history,” Ho said during a televised briefing.

The DOH in early March confirmed there was a presence of local transmission of the virus and became the basis for raising the alert level in the country.

Ho also reminded the public to continue observing physical distancing measures and health protocols, and maintain good hygiene to beat COVID-19.

As of May 21, the Philippines has recorded 13,434 confirmed coronavirus infections, with 846 fatalities and 3,000 recoveries. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

DOH to include PUV drivers in expanded COVID-19 testing

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 15, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) will include additional groups in its expanded testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Aside from the elderly, frontliners, and the immunocompromised, the expanded testing will also cover the PUV drivers, operators, and employees of manufacturing companies.

The DOH said there will be four subgroups for the expanded testing. Subgroup G includes residents in areas with active COVID-19 transmission. Subgroup H will be frontliners in tourist zones while Subgroup I are for employees of manufacturing companies and public service providers.

Subgroup J covers economy workers including PUV drivers, conductors, pilots, waiters, restaurant managers, cashiers, bank tellers, teachers, and security guards.

The Health Department aims to release the updated testing guidelines by next week. DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said the additional groups show the increasing testing capacity of the country.

“Alam natin na gusto na natin unti-unting buksan ang ating ekonomiya (We all know that we want to slowly open our economy) and this is part of how we will be opening our economy,” she said.

Vergeire, meanwhile, advised individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 positive patients to undergo isolation while waiting for their own test result.

“Even if the results are not out, they have to comply with the quarantine procedure of having to be isolated for 14 days,” she said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Duque: We successfully flattened the curve since April

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 15, 2020

The Philippines has successfully flattened the curve since April, according to the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The Health Secretary said the number of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases stabilized from 210 to 220 per day.

“So over time we have been able to stabilize the number of new cases being reported anywhere 210-220 per day. This is the clarification I would like to make,” he said.

Duque said the doubling time of cases and mortality also slowed down. He explained the doubling time went down from around two days to eight days.

“I mentioned that on basis of case doubling time that has actually become longer beyond 7 days, anywhere from 8-12 days. This is an improvement from the initial phase of the outbreak, where case doubling time is about 2.5 days,” according to Duque.

However, former special adviser to the COVID-19 National Task Force (NTF) Dr. Anthony Leachon said the DOH should review their data.

As of July 14, the DOH reported 634 new cases, increasing the total number of cases to 57,545. The Philippines also previously recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a day with 2,434 tallied last July 5.

“I don’t think we have flattened the curve based on our increase in cases, number of deaths, and full critical care capacity of NCR and Cebu hospitals,” he said in a tweet.

Senator Miguel Zubiri also slammed Duque for his remark and said daily cases increased to over a thousand and the Philippines is soon becoming number one is Southeast Asia in terms of COVID-19 cases.

“The only thing that is flat are the backs of all the poor patients in fully occupied COVID-19 wards all around Metro Manila fighting for their lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a message, Duque said COVID-19 cases in April declined after implementing Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). He also added that COVID-19 cases increased due to the expanded COVID-19 testing. —AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOH asks hospitals to increase bed capacity to accommodate more COVID-19 patients

Marje Pelayo   •   July 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is asking hospitals across the country to increase their bed capacity to accommodate more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

This is because most major hospitals in Metro Manila are already in the danger zone or nearing full capacity due to the surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Administrative Order No.2020-0016 states that hospitals must allot 30% bed capacity for COVID-19 cases; but currently, public hospitals are utilizing 20% bed capacity while 9% in private hospitals.

Commitment po ng mga private hospitals po na maglaan ng 20 percent ng kanilang total functional bed capacity for COVID. Nakiusap ako na kung pwedeng kung kailangan ay dagdagan pa ng 10 percent para maging 30 percent,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. 

[It is the commitment of private hospitals to allot 20 percent of their total functional bed capacity for COVID. I asked them, if possible, to increase their capacity by 10 percent to make it 30 percent.]

Samantala ang atin pong mga pampublikong mga hospital ay atin pong pinakiusap ay yung 30 percent naman nila na allocated for COVID ay kinakailangan up to 50 percent ng kanilang bed capacity,” he added.

[Meanwhile, our private hospitals were also asked to increase bed capacity from 30 percent and make it 50 percent for COVID patients.]

At present, four major hospitals in Metro Manila have declared full capacity and can no longer accept COVID-19 patients. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the Philippines’ problems with bed capacity for COVID-19 cases. 

WHO Active Country Rep. Dr. Rabindra Abesayinghe recommends that only the severe and critical cases who needed critical care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) be accepted to address the matter. 

“Other measures that need to be done and the government is practicing now is encouraging the management of mild cases or asymptomatic positives in so called isolation centers, rather than admitting them to hospitals,” he said. 

“Because mild or asymptomatic people don’t require the facilities available in a hospital to manage them,” he added. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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