What does success in COVID-19 response mean? 28 days of no new infections, says DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2020 11:53 AM

People who availed of the city’s free drive-thru COVID-19 testing line up to get their results at the Quirino grandstand in Manila on September 2, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — It is hard to tell for now when the spread of the COVID-19 virus will stop in the Philippines, the Department of Health said. But what does a successful response look like? 

For the health department, it's 28 straight days without new cases.

“May indikasyon ba na magkakaroon na ng pagtigil ng numero? We are not certain at this point. Tinitignan pa ho natin. Pinag-aaralan natin mabuti itong trends ng mga kaso at iba pang factors na ating nabanggit,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing when asked about the possibility of having zero cases soon.

(Are there indications that the numbers will stop? We are not certain at this point. We’ll see. We’re still carefully studying the trends and other factors.)

“Kapag dumating 'yung panahon na in 2 incubation periods, like it’s 28 days na walang naitatalang kaso, doon natin masasabi talaga na we had been successful in all of these things we are doing for this response,” she added.

(When we come to the point of having 2 incubation periods, like 28 days without any reported case, that’s when we can say we had been successful in all of these things we are doing for this response.)

The incubation period for the virus is 14 days.

Vergeire said that for now they are looking at forecasts done by academic institutions, as well as analysis of their experts. But she also acknowledged that the numbers they are reporting have limitations. 

“Kailangan natin to be very cautious when we interpret our data. 'Yung reported cases natin these are very much reliant on the submissions of our disease reporting units,” she said. “Mayroong hindi nakapag-submit, hindi nakumpleto ang submission. [Kaya] 'yung number ng kaso na dapat ire-report natin nagkukulang.”

(We need to be cautious when we interpret our data. The reported cases are very much reliant on the submissions of our disease reporting units. There are some that are unable to submit, some without complete submissions. So our numbers that should be reported are incomplete.)

Vergeire said they are also looking at health care capacity and not just the number of cases. She said hospitals should be able to admit and manage the cases and government must contact-trace properly and do active surveillance, on top of adequate and accessible testing. 

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded 241,987 cases of COVID-19, 3,281 additional cases, still the highest in Southeast Asia. Cases surged in July as quarantine restrictions were loosened to revive the crippled economy, and the country seemed left behind by neighbors in the region in the bid to flatten the curve. 

Recent days have, meanwhile, seen daily reporting below 4,000, after earlier surges that reached beyond this figure.