Decline in COVID-19 cases may be ‘artificial’ – DOH

MANILA, Philippines — The recent decline in new COVID-19 cases being reported daily could be artificial since the volume of COVID-19 tests had gone down across the country and hospitals remained congested, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.

Driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus, the country last month saw 17,000 to 20,000 new cases detected daily and an average of 122 deaths each day.

Lately, the increase in detected new infections was on a downtrend in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon and Mindanao. New cases have also plateaued in the Visayas, according to DOH data.

Only six of the country’s 17 regions are still classified as high risk, namely Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos, Mimaropa, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Bicol.

The nationwide reproduction number has also fallen below 1, which indicated no further transmission.

But the data did not necessarily reflect the situation on the ground, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.UnmuteDuration 1:46/Current Time 0:16Advanced SettingsFullscreenPauseUp Next

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Total tests conducted in the past week of 69,055 a day declined by 11.8 percent from the previous week.

The volume of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) laboratory tests to confirm infection has gone down in 14 of the country’s 17 regions, with the biggest decrease observed in Metro Manila.

Some local governments in Metro Manila have also confirmed that the number of tests reported to them has declined in the last two weeks, Vergeire said.

Varied reasons

Pasig, Caloocan, Pateros, and Mandaluyong observed a general decline in detected cases and contacts traced, which accounted for lesser tests.

Parañaque said its volume of tests was down because the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine reduced its capacity when some staff had to be quarantined.

Pasay admitted it had shifted to using more rapid antigen tests, against the DOH’s advice that these were appropriate only for those with symptoms.

The DOH also pointed out that the decline in detected cases has not decongested hospitals.

Nationwide intensive care unit (ICU) beds usage remained at a high-risk 73 percent while hospital beds utilization was at 64 percent. The health system capacity of most regions was also at high risk.

Hospitals still full

“There are still many people getting admitted,” Vergeire said.

“We don’t like to give false hopes to the public. We have to be definite and we have to confirm it before we say that cases are going down and there are less admissions in hospitals,” she stressed.

The DOH’s case collection system called COVIDKaya has also been experiencing “technical issues” for the past three weeks, Vergeire said.

On Monday night, the DOH reported 10,748 new cases and 61 more deaths. This brought the country’s total to 2,604,040 confirmed cases and 38,828 deaths.

Of the 106,160 active cases, 82.7 percent were mildly ill, 2.7 percent severe and 1.2 percent critical.

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