'Building a boat as it battles storm': Philippines needs to invest in health system, says ex-SARS fighter


Posted at Sep 17 2020 11:42 AM

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The Philippines needs to invest in its healthcare system instead of scrounging for resources in the middle of a health crisis, which will be like trying to fix a boat as it sails during a storm, former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said Thursday. 
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippines only had one testing laboratory and authorities "through the course of these last 6 months, have had to capacitate our health system," noted the former official who led the response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) nearly 2 decades ago. 

"Other countries had stronger health systems because they had invested on their systems over time. We have to invest in our health system, bring it up to speed, modernize it," Dayrit told ANC. 

"That is the only way we can really fully prepared. Otherwise, we’re scrambling. It’s like we’re building the boat… and the boat is already in the storm," he added. 

The Philippines has confirmed 272,934 coronavirus infections, 60,344 of which were active as of Wednesday. It has the 21st biggest caseload worldwide, according to a dashboard by the Johns Hopkins University. 

Despite this, the Philippines has "the best testing policy in the whole of Asia and probably in the whole world" because it has screened 3 million out of its around 100 million people for the novel coronavirus, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque claimed Tuesday. 
“We have exceeded the testing of many countries, but as they say, you have to compare each country according to their context. Maybe other countries no longer had to test as much,” said Dayrit.

He also noted that the national fatality rate for COVID-19 was at around 1.6 percent, lower than in other countries like Germany with 8 percent. 

ANC, Sept. 17, 2020