Where did the 38,000 COVID-19 'mass recoveries' come from? Here’s DOH’s explanation

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 30 2020 10:26 PM | Updated as of Jul 30 2020 11:01 PM

MANILA — On top of the record-high 3,954 additional COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday, people were surprised by the Department of Health's (DOH) announcement of an additional 38,075 recovered patients.

This is even higher than the previous count of total recoveries at 26,996 on Wednesday.

As of Thursday, there are 65,064 patients in the Philippines who have recovered from COVID-19, according to the DOH.

The health department said in a statement that this is because of their "data reconciliation efforts."

The department first mentioned its data reconciliation efforts with local units in mid-July, with its reports showing a spike in the number of cases, deaths, and recoveries. 

Even before that, the numbers being released by local government units were different from the DOH because of delayed reporting.

The DOH addressed this by using a digital platform called COVIDKaya, which allowed hospitals and laboratories to directly input their data into a central database. 

The DOH explained that of the 38,075 additional recoveries, 909 are from the regular reporting of their epidemiological surveillance units and 37,166 are from OPLAN RECOVERY, “which is an initiative that the Department activated to monitor the statuses of confirmed COVID-19 cases.”

These 37,166 patients were re-tagged as recoveries after LGU and regional Centers for Health Development personnel re-checked their status, a DOH staff told ABS-CBN News.

“Early this month, the DOH created the COVID-19 Surveillance and Quick Action Unit which focuses on data collection, validation, and reconciliation of information available at the local and national level, through the COVIDKaya platform,” the DOH said in its statement.

The DOH said it made a “mass recovery adjustment” by reclassifying mild and asymptomatic cases, which resulted in around 5,000 additional recoveries earlier this month.

Back in June, DOH explained that their updated guidelines no longer require COVID-19 patients to undergo repeat testing in order to be released from the hospital. The DOH said patients only need medical assessment by their doctor, showing that they have not had any symptoms in the last 3 days and that they have completed their 14-day quarantine.

Department Memorandum No. 2020-0258 states that patients with mild or no symptoms are tagged as recovered 14 days from the date of onset of symptoms or by date of specimen collection, the DOH said.

“Current recovery policies now show that at the 10th day of illness, the risk of transmitting the virus to other people is significantly reduced,” the DOH said, adding that the same protocol is followed by the US CDC, European CDC, and India. 

Those who are asymptomatic are still required to follow a 14-day isolation period. “Upon assessment of a licensed physician, the patient can be tagged as recovered after completion of 14 days isolation period,” it added.

The DOH also said that “data on recovery reconciliations will be reported every 15 days.” 

This means that there might be a spike in the number of recoveries every 15 days.