The Philippines has yet to flatten the curve of new coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, even though there are signs that the increase in new cases has started to decline, the Department of Health said Thursday.
In the last nine days, the number of patients recovering from the disease has surpassed the number of deaths. As of 4 p.m. of April 23, there were 29 recoveries and 16 new deaths, bringing the total to 722 patients who recovered and 462 who died.
The DOH reported 271 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 6,981.
Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire noted that the doubling time was lengthening, a sign that the transmission of COVID-19 could be slowing.
READ: Recoveries outpace deaths, 26 provinces post no cases
Where as the number of cases doubled every three days, this was up to five days now, Vergeire said.
“Experts said if we can attain a 30-day case doubling time or more, we can say that we are really onto that direction of flattening the curve. But it’s still a long way to go--but at least this is good news for all of us,» she said.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said, the DOH plans to shorten the shifts of health care professionals to allow them to build up their resistance against the disease by providing them more hours of rest. She said this would also minimize their exposure to the disease.
“We are looking at these recommendations from Chinese experts. One of their recommendations is we should be able to shorten the shifts of our workers,” she said, referring to a medical team from China to provide technical assistance to the Philippines.
The Chinese team said health frontliners should be on duty for only four hours.
READ: War on virus: Recovering patients outpace fatalities for 5th straight day
Based on the latest DOH data, Vergeire said 1,062 health care workers have contracted COVID-19, Twenty six have since died. Nineteen of the 26 casualties were doctors.
She added that 422 of those infected are doctors, 386 are nurses, 30 are medical technologists, 21 are X-ray technologists, 51 are nursing assistants, and 152 are administrative workers and barangay health workers.
However, she rejected claims that the high infection rate of health care workers stemmed from the lack of personal protective equipment. She said some of the health care workers contracted the disease outside of their workplaces.
She said that even though there is a lack of PPE, she doubts that any doctor would treat a COVID-19 patient without wearing any kind of protection, unless the patient lied about their exposure history.
READ: Highest recoveries in a day set at 53
Researchers from the University of the Philippines, meanwhile, said the number of COVID-19 cases could be much higher than the official count because of under-reporting and asymptomatic cases.
A policy report released Wednesday night said there could as many 9,000 people infected as of April 19.
In other developments:
• The Bureau of Immigration on Thursday said it will evaluate foreigners for temporary release or deportation to decongest its detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said the evaluation will begin next week, but so far, they have identified detainees who are high risks for COVID-19.
• A Coast Guard medical team was deployed to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Thursday to get blood samples of all arriving overseas Filipino workers, including seafarers and land based workers for COVID-19 testing. The medical team started getting blood samples from OFWs and other passengers who arrived from Taiwan on board Eva Air. The arriving passengers were brought to the holding area of NAIA Terminal 1 before boarding a Coast Guard bus for quarantine.
• An inmate from the New Bilibid Prison’s medium security compound in Muntinlupa who was hospitalized on April 17 at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has tested positive for the virus, the Bureau of Corrections said on its Facebook page. Some 40 prisoners have been placed under isolation while contact tracing is conducted, the bureau added.
• Senator Imee Marcos rebuked the DOH for its inability ensure enough personal protective equipment and medical supplies for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, where 42 of the staff have tested positive for COVID-19, causing a backlog in testing for thousands of specimens from suspected cases of infection. One of the early fatalities among those infected was RITM Deputy Director Sally Gatchalian. “The least we can do is to protect our RITM and other health workers from dying from infections,” Marcos said. She issued the statement on the “depressing” founding anniversary of what was supposed to be the country’s prime biomedical research center to control communicable diseases.
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