Senator urges DOH: Test COVID-19 patients who recovered to ensure they're virus-free

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 31 2020 02:17 PM

A health worker talks to a patient outside the San Juan Medical Center at N. Domingo, San Juan City on April 17, 2020. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Department of Health should test patients for COVID-19 before deeming that they have gotten well, a senator said Friday, after the agency drew flak for a 38,000-case single-day jump in its tally of recoveries. 

The DOH on Thursday started labelling mild and asymptomatic cases who remained healthy for 14 days since diagnosis as recovered patients. This brought up the number of recoveries to 65,064—a jump of 38,075 cases. 
 
While the spike is "quite surprising," the "global protocol now is after 10 days, even 10 days, and you don't exhibit symptoms anymore, you can be released and categorized as recovered," said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. 

Some patients, however, are uncomfortable about returning home to their families without a test proving they no longer have the virus, he said. 

"The best way still is to test, to make sure that they are negative, to make sure that they can bring home the certification and show their families they're negative," Gatchalian told ANC. 

"Also from a policy standpoint, it's better to test at the end so that we will completely know that indeed, the recoveries are negative from COVID," he added. 

The COVID-19 tally of the DOH dictates government policies, including the lifting of lockdowns. The agency should work at automating its data, which are still encoded manually and collated through e-mail, said the senator. 

The Senate recently passed a stimulus bill allocating P140 billion for cash aid to displaced workers and struggling businesses, test kits and other pandemic programs. 

This amount is "very small," said Gatchalian, adding that he wanted it raised to P530 billion. 

"We have to address hunger in our country. We have to address people who are losing their jobs," he reasoned. 

The Senate and House can adjust the funding when they hold a bicameral conference to thresh out differences in their versions of the 
Bayanihan to Recover as One bill, so-called Bayanihan 2, the second emergency measure that Congress tackled in response to the pandemic.