DOH says PH in ‘right direction’ as COVID-19 transmission rate stays below 1

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People who availed of the city’s free drive-thru COVID-19 testing line up to get their results at the Quirino grandstand in on September 2, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday said the Philippines was headed in the right direction but it remained cautious when asked if the country was already flattening the epidemic curve.

“Kailangan natin intindihin pag nagsabi tayo ng flattening the curve. Kasi iniiwasan nga nating sabihin yan dahil ayaw nating magkaroon ng complacency among our population,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual forum when asked about the UP OCTA Research Group’s statement that the COVID-19 curves in Metro Manila and Calabarzon are flattening.

(We have to understand what flattening the curve means. Because we’re avoiding saying that because we don’t want our population to be complacent.)

Vergeire said flattening the curve means preventing a quick spike in cases by setting measures that would instead delay the spread of the virus and distribute the cases over longer period of time. This is also meant to ensure that a country’s health system is not overwhelmed with patients.

However, she acknowledged that the situation has improved, especially as transmission rate or reproduction number is now at 0.977.

“It is less than 1 already. And sinasabi nga ng WHO (World Health Organization) and other reputable international organizations na kapag less than 1 ang transmission rate mo, nandun ka sa tamang direksyon (What the WHO and other reputable international organizations are saying is that if your transmissionr ate is less than 1, you are headed in the right direction),” she said.

A transmission rate of more than 1 means that a patient can infect one or more people. If the rate is below 1 then it means the spread of the disease has slowed down.

Vergeire said critical care utilization or hospital occupancy of COVID-19 cases is now a 50% for the whole country.

“If we look at the different regions specifically, NCR Cebu and Region 4A, nakikita natin slowly bumababa ang utilization natin. Ang NCR ngayon nasa 66% (we can see the utilization rate going down slowly. NCR is now at 66%),” she said, pointing out that the utilization rate was higher than 80% during the 2-week modified enhanced community quarantine when it reached the “danger zone.”

“So we can say, na yun pong mga ginagawa nating strategies are working. Although it is not immediate, nakikita natin na nagbabago po at nagdedecongest po natin somehow ang ating mga ospital,” Vergeire said.

(So we can say that our strategies are working. Although it is not immediate, we can see that it is changing and we are able to decongest our hospitals somehow.)

Vergeire said the case doubling time nationwide is at 10.3 days, which means that the number of new cases are doubling every 10 days. But she acknowledged the observation of experts that the case doubling time is “not that sensitive anymore” because of the community transmission in specific areas of the country.

She said they added other indicators to gauge the situation in the country.

The mortality doubling time is at 14.9 days, as well, which means that new deaths double in number every 15 days.

“Nothing is certain at this point. We just continue to monitor our situation. We continue to do our strategies so we can further decrease the number of cases,” she said.

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