Duque, expert see COVID-19 curve flattening as treatment system improves

By CNN Philippines Staff

The Philippines’ COVID-19 curve has been flattening, paving the way for further improvement of the country’s health system capacity, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday.

“Yung capacity ng health system is improving in terms of treatment kasi hindi na nga na-o-overwhelm [sa cases],” Duque said in a briefing with other government officials during the opening of a mega swabbing facility in Taguig City.

[Translation: Our health system capacity is improving in terms of treatment because the cases are not as overwhelming for now.]

Duque cited the recent remarks of public health specialist Dr. John Wong, that the country started flattening the curve for the virus 10 to 14 days ago.

“This is the effect now, nag-fa-flatten ang curve [the curve is flattening] and it gave us the opportunity to improve our health systems capacity, which includes ramping up our testing target,” he added.

Improving case, mortality doubling time

From a one- to two-day surge, the COVID-19 case doubling time, or the number of days it takes for cases to double, is now at four to five days, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Wong further broke down the national data in a virtual media briefing, as he explained a slowdown in the rate of infections and deaths in all island-groups.

In Metro Manila and surrounding provinces which record the most number of infections at around 70%, case doubling time improved by two days. The specialist also noted a slowdown in mortality rate, with the deaths doubling in five to six days, previously from four days.

“We’re doing very well already inside the NCR (National Capital Region). This could be the effect of [both] the enhanced community quarantine [and] the health workers or hospitals being better at managing patients,” Wong said, adding that most of the latest deaths were outside the region.

The Visayas and Mindanao also recorded longer case and death doubling time with Mindanao registering the biggest improvement, even as there was a recent spike in cases in two areas.

As for the Visayas, the case increase comes from new clusters of infection in Cebu City, especially in jail facilities. Meanwhile, Wong said health and local government officials are now looking into the source of the rise in cases in Mindanao.

For the rest of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao, it now takes seven days or more for the number of coronavirus deaths to double, he added.

There are also 43 provinces that have no new recorded cases in the past two weeks.

However, the DOH clarified that while the case doubling time has shown a generally good trend, it is too early to tell if the slowdown can be sustained for now. It reminded the public to continue exercising caution and strictly adhering to health protocols.

Increasing testing capacity

Meanwhile, the government is just preparing to meet its target of 28,000 to 30,000 tests a day by the end of May, while it anticipates a stockpile of 12 million to 15 million personal protective equipment (PPE), which could last for three months, Duque said.

“Isolation rooms, quarantine facilities, ICU beds, hospital beds – these are all components of health system capacity. We have to watch how we are faring in terms of utilization of these capacities,” the Health chief warned. “If utilization goes up, it could be a problem.”

Four mega swabbing centers in Manila are slated to open to the public within the week, in line with the administration’s effort to strengthen testing capacity.

Government officials have already inspected the Palacio de Maynila Tent along Roxas Boulevard, and the Enderun Tent McKinley Hill in Taguig City, while the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan and the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City will be ready for operation in the coming days.

These centers could conduct about 5,000 confirmatory tests per day to help reach the government’s goal of 30,000 daily tests by May 31.

The Philippines has 9,684 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date. A total of 1,408 individuals have recovered, while 637 have died.

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