DOH, senators weigh in on WHO report on PHL Covid cases

  • Jun 29, 2020
  • BusinessMirror

CITING the population ratio, the Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday said the Philippines should not be compared to Singapore after data from World Health Organization (WHO) showed that the former posted the fastest rise in Covid-19 cases in Western Pacific.

This, as the number of Covid cases in the country breached the 35,000-mark on Sunday. Senators Christopher Lawrence Go and Francis Pangilinan gave contrasting reactions to news on the WHO’s report showing the Philippines posting the fastest spike in infections.

Go noted there is no cure nor vaccine for the disease, and different countries take different strokes for dealing with it; hence, comparisons may not provide a perfectly correct context. For his part, Minority senator Pangilinan decried the “waste” of the sacrifice of so many frontliners who died, as well as the extreme difficulties of millions trying to survive lockdowns without jobs or livelihood.

He said the Philippines could have done better if it had ramped up mass testing and contact tracing alongside the lockdowns.

Likening the correct response to farming, he said, “we cannot just dig up the soil. We must plant seedlings and water the plant. We have to take care of them.”

According to WHO, the Philippines has the fastest jump in cases in the Western Pacific region, noting that it recorded 8,143 new cases since June 16. It is the highest among 22 countries in the region.

The deaths per million in Singapore is 4.4 deaths,while the Philippines has 11.34 deaths per million population. “Our socioeconomic context, particularly living conditions, as well as health system capacity, even prior to Covid, is different from Singapore,” the DOH said in a statement.

“Please take that into account when we do our analysis. Let us not cherry pick the countries we want to compare ourselves to, concluding that PH has the fastest rise in virus cases in the Western Pacific Region.”

The DOH stressed that the comparison made with Singapore and other countries “requires a deeper understanding of population ratio versus number of cases.”

“Singapore has a population of 5.9 million, with a case load of 43,246; the Philippines [has a population of] 109 million with 34,803 cases. Per 1 million people, Singapore has a higher case at 7,393 cases/1M population compared with PHL at 318 cases /1M population,” it added.

The DOH gave assurances that as the national government strives to manage Covid-19 in the absence of a cure or vaccine, all agencies are tasked to closely monitor the rise in cases and strengthen response through localized actions, especially in emerging hot spots.

These localized responses, the DOH reiterated, entail early detection of cases and tracing of contacts, their immediate isolation or quarantine, and appropriate testing and treatment.

On Sunday, administration senator Go eased concerns aired over the WHO report that the Philippines has the fastest surge in Covid-19 infections in the Western Pacific.

Go, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, acknowledged “there is still no vaccine nor medicine for this disease…. That is why strict enforcement of existing measures and proper compliance of everyone are very crucial.”

Asked about the WHO assessment of the government’s response to the pandemic, Go said in a mix of English and Filipino that, “if we strictly follow rules and cooperate to stop the spread of the disease, and if health facilities and capabilities are improved, that is the only thing that would spell when we can overcome Covid-19.”

As Health Committee chairman, Go had pressed the need to improve existing health facilities and capabilities. He vowed to pursue his appeal for the Duterte government to “improve its Test, Trace and Treat strategy,” noting that as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, parallel efforts should be stepped up in “quarantine, contact tracing and necessary treatment capabilities.”

The DOH claimed the government has addressed the rising critical care utilization through augmentation of equipment and work force, and thus ensure that a possible surge of cases can be managed.

“Lastly, we continue to emphasize the implementation of minimum health standards, i.e., wearing of masks and physical distancing, as the most effective preventive measure in the absence of a vaccine.”

AS of 4 p.m. of June 28, the DOH the reported that the total number of Covid-19 rose to 35,455.

A total of 653 additional cases were reported, of which 485 were logged as fresh cases and 168 were detected as late cases.

The DOH announced that there were 258 recoveries. This brings the total number of recoveries to 9,686. Eight deaths were reported. The death toll stood at 1,244. Of the eight reported deaths, five (62 percent) occurred in June (June 13-22, 2020).