The total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surged to 93,354 on Friday after a record-high 4,063 new infections were recorded by the Department of Health (DOH).
The department said 1,705 of these are considered “fresh” or newly validated, while 2,358 were reported late.
The data came from the records of 74 out of 91 operation test laboratories.
The number of COVID-19 survivors increased to 65,178 after 165 more were tagged as recovered from the virus.
The death toll, on the other hand, grew to 2,023 after the DOH announced 40 new deaths.
Of the 4,063 additional cases reported, 3,813 (94 percent) occurred in July.
The top regions with cases in July were: The National Capital Region, 2,153 cases (56 percent); Region 7, 558 cases (15 percent); and Region 4A, 492 cases (13 percent).
READ: DOH retags data; cases spike
The new numbers were announced several hours after the government extended the general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila despite the continued rise in cases.
It was also a day after the DOH announced more than 38,000 additional recovered patients due to “data reconciliation,” which brought down the number of active cases drastically.
University of the Philippines (UP) researchers on Friday said the number of COVID-19 cases in the country may reach 150,000 by the end of August.
In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, Prof. Ranjit Rye of the UP OCTA research team said almost double the current national case total, the projection reflects exponential growth.
Also on Friday, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said the retagging of 37,000 asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 cases as “recovered” was based on scientific evidence.
Vergeire said asymptomatic patients can already be tagged as recovered if the patient did not show symptoms for 14 days since the day of RT-PCR test.
Those with mild symptoms, on the other hand, will be deemed recovered once they are deemed clinically recovered by their doctor and finish the required 14 -day isolation period, she said.
“Clinically recovered means there are no symptoms such as fever,” Vergeire said. “If you reach clinical recovery on the 10th day, you have to be in isolation for another four days to be tagged as recovered.”
READ: As cases surge, MECQ for NCR pushed
“This is not an assumption. This is based on scientific evidence. Experts across the globe are backing this up, and this is being implemented in other countries also,” Vergeire added.
Vergeire said that such a huge number of recoveries is expected to happen, considering that over 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in the country are mild or asymptomatic cases.
She said conducting an RT-PCR test is not an effective way to determine if the patient has recovered from COVID-19, considering that a patient can repeatedly test positive for COVID-19 even if the patient is already not infectious.
Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said the situation has improved despite critics’ questions about the data. He pointed to the high recovery rate of 73 percent, and the death rate at 2.2 percent.
READ: Virus cases surpass 85,000
On Thursday, Senator Joel Villanueva and Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero on Thursday said Filipinos deserve better than being fooled by the DOH.
The statements were issued after the country logged a record-high of 3,954 new COVID cases and 38,075 new recoveries.
Vega stood by the data, saying it has gone through validation and reconciliation in the DOH.
But Senator Francis Pangilinan admonished the DOH to be transparent in reporting COVID-19 cases and to refrain from “massaging” the data to make it appear that the government is making headway in battling the pandemic.
“Was there a miracle? Was there magic? Doctors should be treating patients to become well and not “doctoring” numbers and information,” Pangilinan said.
He also accused the DoH of muddling the COVID-19 data by combining the mild patients with those who have actually recovered.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said she was baffled by the mass recovery reported by the DOH when there is still no mass testing.
She said the public should know the truth about whaat’s happening every step of the way. She also said the DOH should explain their report on the “mass recovery.”
“Data is vital. We cannot properly respond if we do no know the real picture of a problem,” she said.
READ: Cases rising to UP experts’ danger level
But Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said the statistical adjustment was based on a World Health Organization (WHO) protocol that said mild cases need not test negative anymore since they are considered well after 14 days without exhibiting symptoms.
“So the data will change accordingly. Let’s observe the trend over the next few days before a rush to judgement based on one day results,” he said.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said he was surprised by the large number of recoveries in one day that reduced the number of active cases from 50,000 to 22,000.
“It was quite surprising from a layman standpoint but I also consulted our Senate doctor, I also consulted some public government health experts and to be fair to the DOH the global protocol now is after 10 days, even after 10 days if you do not exhibit symptoms anymore, you can be released and categorized as recovered,” he said.
But from the policy standpoint, he said it’s better to test at the end so that health officials can be sure that recoveries are indeed negative for COVID-19.
Pangilinan raised the following questions on the DoH’s new data reporting:
• How certain are we that these mild and asymptomatic cases are already virus-free after 14 days?
• Are doctors now authorized to issue health clearance certificates to asymptomatic persons?
• Will these cases of “recovered patients” from among the mild and asymptomatic persons no longer have to get two negatives, as earlier required by the DoH?
“Unless we are hiding something, we owe it to the Filipinos to be transparent and to allow the COVID-19 data to speak for itself, and from there plan our course of action in fighting the pandemic,” Pangilinan said.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, meanwhile, slammed the DOH for its announcement that the health care system is at a critical level due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections that are filling up bed capacity at hospitals.
He also disputed Vega’s suggestion that the solution is for hospitals to increase their bed allocations for COVID-19 patients.
“This is simply unbelievable and outright unacceptable. DOH may allocate thousands of beds and build hospitals to show that every COVID-infected patient can be accommodated,, but the real issue is not the number of beds, but the number of health workers--doctors and nurses. Dozens of them have already died. There were no replacements. While you can build more beds and hospitals, you cannot instantly create doctors and nurses. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that,” he said.
Barbers said some hospitals are already having their doctors and nurses extend duties up to 12 hours. “Increasing the number of patients that they can attend to will put both them and the patients at great risk. Only fools will see otherwise,” he said.
Barbers also criticized the DOH when it claimed the recovery of 38,000 asymptomatic and mild cases 14 days after testing positive just by mere assumption and without concrete proof. “This is the most incredible and irresponsible public health announcement I have ever heard. I really could not fathom the objective that the DOH is trying so hard to achieve by these pronouncements, Barbers said.