Curve flattening? DOH still guarded

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    THE Department of Health (DOH) yesterday acknowledged that established indicators in flattening the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) curve have already shown significant improvement, but stopped short in saying that the curve is now flattened, as experts from the University of the Philippines have claimed.

    In a virtual press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said health leaders are not yet comfortable in making such a declaration as the situation remains fluid.
    “We cannot say yet (that we have flattened the curve). It is really not yet certain. Nothing is certain at this point in time,” Vergeire said.

    The UP OCTA Research Team has said that the COVID-19 curve in the country has been flattened. According to Dr. Guido David of the UP OCTA Research Team, this is evident in the decreasing number of newly-reported cases of COVID-19 in recent days.
    Despite the guarded attitude, Vergeire admitted that the COVID-19 situation in the country has improved a lot.

    She said established indicators in flattening the curve are better now compared to past weeks. These indicators include the reproduction rate, case doubling time, mortality doubling time, and critical care utilization rate, among others.

    Currently, Vergeire said the reproduction rate of COVID-19 in the Philippines is at 0.977.
    Case doubling time is pegged at 10.3 days, while the mortality doubling time is

    set at 14.9 days.

    Finally, the critical care utilization rate is presently at the average of 50  percent nationwide. “With these indicators, we can see that, somehow, the situation has improved,” Vergeire said.

    “We can say that our strategies are working. Although not immediate, there have been changes,” she added.

    National Task Force (NTF) against  COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. and presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in separate briefings,  welcomed the UP team’s report. These, the two officials said could  be attributed to improvements in the health care capacity in many parts of the country and the recent 15-day strict community quarantine imposed in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces Bulacan, Rizal, Batangas, Cavite and Laguna.

    Roque said placing the NCR and the five provinces under modified  enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in August contributed significantly to the drop in COVID-19 cases in the areas, which continue to record the most number of infected residents. Galvez noted the considerable drop in recorded cases: from a peak of 4,163 cases in August down to 1,797 on September 4 in Metro Manila, and a peak of 1,584 in August down to 829 cases on September 4  in the Calabarzon region.

    He said the positive developments did not happen overnight but was a result of a lot of careful planning and painstaking efforts among the national government, local government units, private sector, medical frontliners, and the general public. But even with the positive development, both Galvez and Roque said everyone should not become complacent.

    “We cannot be too confident yet, especially since there is still no vaccine to fight the disease. The curve can go up again if we let our guard down. We do not want this to happen,” Galvez said.

    Galvez and Roque said that to sustain the gains, the government will continue to ramp up its testing, tracing, and treatment efforts. As of September 5, 117 CO VID- 19 testing laboratories had already been accredited nationwide which had resulted in the processing of 2,772,075 samples.

    There are 20 mega treatment facilities nationwide with a combined 3,285 bed capacity and a current 58 percent occupancy; and 28 isolation hotels with a combined 2,779 bed capacity and current occupancy rate of 59 percent.  Testing czar Vince Dizon said the government is also distributing 30 million reusable and locally made face masks, which all passed government health and quality standards, to poor communities and areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

    Public Works and Highways undersecretary Emil Sadain, during the Laging Handa network briefing, said the government had  completed 340 isolation and treatment facilities, while 262 more are set to be finished by the end of  September until early October. He said the DPWH is also establishing dormitories for frontline medical health workers and plans to put up offsite modular hospitals in Quezon Institute and the Lung Center of the Philippines that will cater to patients with moderate and severe symptoms of COVID-19. – With Jocelyn Montemayor

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