MANILA— The country's health system has greatly improved since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) hit eight months ago, the Department of Health (DOH) said, as the Philippines joined the list of the top 20 countries with the highest number of infections.
The national caseload on Friday reached over 316,000, after the DOH recorded an additional 2,611 confirmed cases.
Because of this, the Philippines ranked just behind Italy, one of the heavily affected countries at the beginning of the pandemic, in terms of the number of coronavirus infections, data from the Johns Hopkins University showed.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained that looking beyond the cumulative figure would give a better picture of the country's COVID-19 situation.
One also needed to look at the health system capacity and government response to the coronavirus crisis to know that it has greatly improved, Vergeire said.
One of the improvements pointed out by the health department is the notable decrease in new cases recorded in September compared with new cases in August.
Between August 6 and 12, the DOH said that around 16,000 cases were recorded in the National Capital Region. But this decreased tremendously in the last week of September, where only 3,772 cases were logged.
“We may be one of the top 20 countries in the world with the number of cases, but when we look at health system capacity, it has improved tremendously," Vergeire said in an online forum.
"When we look at the recovery rate, nandoon na tayo sa 80% or more. Ang case fatality, nagse-stable po ang case fatality natin less than 2%. We have to focus on active cases and not cumulative number of cases.” she said.
The country's contact tracing efforts also improved, the DOH said, as different local government units (LGU) have been implementing strict contact tracing efforts.
"Within 48 hours, kumpleto na 100% lahat na na-contact. Nakikita natin na na-achieve na ng LGUs itong sinasagawang target na ito for contact tracing,” she said.
'There's still room to boost COVID-19 response'
Despite boosts in the health system capacity, Vergeire emphasized that there's still room for improvement.
Some LGUs, for instance, must still beef-up contact tracing efforts to achieve the 1:37 patient-contact ratio that is currently being practiced in Baguio City.
The DOH also admitted that there are still bottlenecks being experienced by laboratories, which resulted in delayed reporting of cases.
From the earlier turnaround time of 3-5 days, RT-PCR tests are now released within the 48 hours.
The DOH, meanwhile, also said the public's fear of a possible resurgence of new cases due to the gradual reopening of the economy and different industries is valid.
Strict adherence to the minimum health standards, the department said, could help prevent such situation from happening.
“We have to learn to live with the virus and have this new normal. Bagama't marami na ang MGCQ, 'wag pa rin tayong maging kampante. Hindi pa tapos ang ating laban,”