DOH allays fears after record 539 COVID-19 cases, says only 109 cases are ‘fresh’

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Workers push disinfection sprayer at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 in Pasay City on May 25, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday allayed fears of a new spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country, as more areas are shifting to a more relaxed community quarantine by month-end. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire clarified that of the record-high 539 new COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday, only 109 are actually newly-tested patients.

“Hindi po nangangahulugan na lumala ang sitwasyon ng COVID sa bansa,” Vergeire said during a televised breifing.

(This does not mean that the COVID-19 situation in the country has worsened.)

“109 out of 539 cases (reported on Thursday) are those that were reported in the past 3 days,” she explained, adding that the contacts of the “fresh” cases were already being traced and isolated.

She said the more than 400 other cases also reported on Thursday actually tested positive during the past week.

Last week, ABS-CBN News reported about the widening gap between confirmed cases and individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in the Philippines. The DOH admitted that it was facing delays because of the tedious validation process.

Validation is done on each positive test result to ensure that they are not double counting cases.

Vergeire said that while the more than 400 cases got their test results last week, their records were only recently brought to the Epidemiology Bureau, which does the validation.

Vergeire further said that of the 17 “new deaths” reported on Thursday, there were some whose date of death were actually in March or April.

The health official then showed a graph showing that based on the date of death of the patients, COVID-related deaths in the country were actually declining.

It however remained unclear how many “new cases” reported in the past were actually patients that were tested weeks or even months before they were validated.

Apart from validation delays, the DOH is also contending with laboratory backlogs. Many samples submitted to the laboratories have yet to be tested three days after they were received for testing. The DOH earlier boasted that it was able to bring down testing backlog down to over 3,000. Of the remaining tests, nearly 2,000 are with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced that the National Capital Region, as well as regions 2, 3, 4A, Pangasinan, Albay and Davao City will be under GCQ. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the country will shift to a modified GCQ, which is one step closer to the "new normal" or the full lifting of community quarantine protocols. 


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