MANILA — A lot has already improved. That was the Department of Health’s message on Thursday as it responded to groups criticizing the country’s COVID-19 response.
“Mayroon naman panahon talaga noong buwan ng Abril kung saan may flattening pansamantala,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing.
(There really was a time in April when there was a temporary flattening of the curve.)
She said the DOH used that time to increase the number of health workers, expand testing, construct temporary treatment facilities, distribute personal protective equipment and update the public about the daily increase in cases.
Vergeire said this after experts at a media briefing organized by the group Citizens' Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (CURE COVID) called their efforts a failure.
But Vergeire attributed the recent increase in COVID-19 cases to the easing of quarantine measures for the gradual opening up of the economy.
“Dahil po sa patuloy na pagluwag ng community restrictions, makikita natin na tumataas ang kaso. Kaya naman po inaanyayahan namin ang publiko na gawin pa rin ang minimum health standards at ‘wag na pong lumabas kung hindi kinakailangan,” Vergeire said.
(Because of the easing of community restrictions, we have seen an increase in cases. That is why we are encouraging the public to observe minimum health standards and not to go out if it is not necessary.)
Among the improvements she enumerated are the increase of COVID-19 laboratories, which is now at 91. She pointed out that the Philippines used to send its samples to Australia in January when the pandemic started.
And while the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine could only run 300 tests a day at the start, the country has been able to process a total of 24,000 tests daily.
“Mahigit 1 milyon na rin ang natest para sa COVID-19. Ang goal po natin ay umabot sa 1.5 million tests sa katapusan ng buwan ng Hulyo,” she said.
(We have tested more than 1 million for COVID-19. Our goal is to reach 1.5 million tests before the end of July.)
There are also now 8,959 temporary quarantine facilities nationwide and 5,268 health workers hired to augment health facilities.
Vergeire also pointed out that while the country once had 22 out of 100 people testing positive for COVID-19, the positivity rate is now at 8.6%, which means that only 9 in 100 people test positive for the virus.