MANILA - The number of fresh cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines is decreasing, one of the government's special advisers on the virus said Monday as the country's urban hubs began to ease lockdowns.
Metro Manila, Davao City, and Cebu City on Monday began to shift into a looser lockdown or general community quarantine in a bid to reboot the contracting economy.
"It’s time to test our setup, our system if it will be indeed able to indeed handle the next wave if it does happen," said Ted Herbosa, who also serves as the executive vice president of the University of the Philippines.
"We didn’t waste the time we were in quarantine. We were able to catch up in terms of laboratories. We started with 3 in February, now we have about 37 and several gene expert laboratories," he added, noting that some 74 laboratories are pending for accreditation from the Department of Health.
The Philippines has "some control" in the virus transmission as its doubling time is now at 10 to 12 days versus 2 days in the beginning of the pandemic, Herbosa said.
"We really are in the deceleration of the curve, but I don't know if we are just plateauing because the other number we look at is the time varying reproductive number. I think that’s hovering around 1. We want that number to be really low," he said.
The DOH's "dumping of backlog" or the so-called late cases should be added on the dates when the tests were done, Herbosa added.
The agency in the past week made new classification for new cases: fresh cases were test results released within the last 3 days, while late cases are results released 4 or more days ago.
"Fresh cases are really going down. The cases have gone down to a single digit. In fact there was a day there were only 5 new confirmed cases a day. At least with the removal of what we call late cases that the trend had been continuing. It was only the dumping of the backlog that caused confusion," he said.
"We will do some cleaning up. We will help DOH clean up the data so the public and the decision makers who will use this data--the more accurate, real-time the data is, the decisions will be more robust."
The Philippines still needs to increase its testing as it has yet to reach the ideal 30,000 tests daily, Herbosa said.
It should also conduct "meticulous contact tracing," he added, citing Vietnam, where it was done up to the third level of the patient's contacts.
"That's not gonna be solved by apps, that's gonna be solved by surveillance people who will really look for contacts of positive patients, follow them up, do case files on them and test them if needed," he said.
"The only place I've seen that done here in the Philippines is in Baguio City."
As of Sunday, the Philippines has recorded 18,086 cases of COVID-19, with 3,909 recoveries and 957 deaths.