DOH sees 'big hope' even as critics question COVID-19 mass recovery

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 31 2020 01:12 PM | Updated as of Jul 31 2020 01:15 PM

A nurse (R) checks on a patient who has recovered from the COVID-19 coronavirus as he undergoes a procedure to donate plasma at a hospital in Manila on April 22, 2020. Maria Tan, Agence France-Presse 

MANILA — The Department of Health said Friday it was seeing “big hope” in increasing recoveries from the novel coronavirus, even as the total COVID-19 cases of the Philippines exceeded that of China, where the virus was first detected.

The DOH reported Thursday 3,954 additional cases of COVID-19 and 38,075 new recoveries. This brought up the total cases to 89,374—of which 22,327 are active cases, 65,064 are patients who recovered and 1,983 are deaths. 

Laboratories and hospitals “took some time” to report the recoveries because they had “totally different” data systems which made validation difficult, said DOH Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega. 

The 38,000 new recoveries include mild and asymptomatic patients who have finished their 14-day isolation at home or in quarantine centers, he said. 

The cumulative fatality rate is at 2.2 percent and in July, only 12 patients died in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the respiratory disease, said Vega.

“You have to look at this in the perspective of hope. We’re in this pandemic. If you try to look at the numbers that are growing, you’d become anxious and there’s fear in it,” said Vega, who is also the country’s treatment czar. 

“But there’s a big hope in it because if you try to look at it in the perspective of death, the cumulative death that we have is only 2.2 percent…. It means that the clinical management of this virus has tremendously improved,” he told ANC. 

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Former senator and Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero on Thursday questioned the “mass recovery adjustment” of the DOH and joined calls for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. 

“This is ‘only in the Philippines’ and is intolerable and insulting! PRRD: Sir, please fire Sec. Duque! You/we/I deserve better po!” he said on Facebook. 

The keywords “mass recovery” also trended on Twitter, with majority of the posts criticizing government’s alleged attempt to deceive the public. 

The recovery of the 38,000 patients “ideally” should have been reported from the start, said Vega. 

“But this kind of metrics that we have to collect from the different not just laboratories, but hospitals, did not take effect in terms of pushing through with a collective effort of coming up with a consolidated report,” he said. 

“Data management is really very hard, especially when you talk it out in a national scale wherein you are looking at about 91 laboratories right now across the country, operating 16 hours a day,” he went on. 

The DOH is hiring more data encoders and is encouraging all health facilities to use its COVID Kaya system for reporting coronavirus cases, Vega said.

The health department is also buying flu and pneumonia vaccines that can help prevent complications from COVID-19, and is fast-tracking the purchase of remdisivir, a drug that cuts down the time a patient needs to stay in intensive care, he said. 

The agency wants to find a local supplier of nasal catheters, which give patients more mobility compared to ventilators that help them breathe, he said. 

“Nothing is perfect in this world. Slowly we are moving in progress,” Vega said.