The government has implemented an unprecedented effort to arrest the contagion and has been building up its testing capability. More tests will mean more confirmed cases will be detected.
Photo by STR / AFP/File
They died before their COVID-19 test results came back
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - March 23, 2020 - 7:01pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:19 p.m.) — The new coronavirus has afflicted 462 people and killed 33 in the Philippines since health authorities began detecting infections in late January.

But some of the deaths were attributed to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) days after the patients passed, highlighting the problem with the country’s very limited testing capabilities.

Here are some of the COVID-19 fatalities who passed away before their results came out confirming they were positive for the virus:

Patient 201 – Philippines’ 15th fatality

  • 58-year-old Filipino male from Lanao del Sur
  • Expired on March 17 but only confirmed positive for COVID-19 on March 18
  • Died due to acute respiratory distress syndrome secondary to COVID-19

Patient 281 – Philippines’ 26th fatality

  • 57-year-old Filipino male from Mandaluyong City
  • Expired on March 19 but only confirmed to have contracted the virus on March 20
  • Died due to septic shock, severe pneumonia, COVID-19

Patient 279 – Philippines’ 28th fatality

  • 73-year-old Filipino male from San Juan City
  • Expired on March 16 but only confirmed positive for COVID-19 on March 20
  • Died due to septic shock, community acquired pneumonia

Patient 304 – Philippines’ 29th fatality

  • 89-year-old Filipino male from Bulacan
  • Expired on March 20 but confirmed to have contracted the illness on March 21
  • Died due to myocardial infarction, pneumonia, multiple electrolyte imbalance

Patient 328 – Philippines’ 30th fatality

  • 74-year-old male from Quezon City
  • Expired on March 13 but only confirmed positive for COVID-19 on March 21
  • Died due to acute respiratory failure second to community-acquired pneumonia

Patient 349 – Philippines’ 33rd fatality

  • 56-year-old Filipino male from Parañaque City
  • Expired on March 17 but confirmed to have contracted the illness on March 21
  • Died due to acute respiratory failure secondary to ARDS secondary to acute viral pneumonia

Other patients died on the same day they tested positive such as:

Patient 266 – Philippines’ 27th fatality

  • 71-year-old Filipino male from Quezon City
  • Expired on 2:32 a.m. of March 20, confirmed positive for COVID-19 on March 20
  • Died due to septic shock, community-acquired pneumonia, COVID-19

Patient 333 – Philippines’ 31st fatality

  • 65-year-old Filipino male from Quezon City
  • Expired on 8:35 a.m. of March 21, confirmed positive for COVID-19 on March 21
  • Died due to ARDS, COVID-19, pneumonia

The fault in the country’s testing program

The cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines surge each day, indicating the virus continues to spread.

The government has implemented an unprecedented effort to arrest the contagion and has been building up its testing capability. More tests will mean more confirmed cases will be detected.

A little over 1,500 tests have been conducted since late January, suggesting that only 12 in every one million Filipinos were tested. The rate makes the Philippines a laggard among its Southeast Asian peers, with the exception of Indonesia which has tested just seven per one million people so far.

Vietnam tested 159 people per million, Thailand with 102 per million and Malaysia with 422 per million.

"I think it is a testament to the reality that our system of testing has indeed been bogged down, from the initially promised 48 to 72 hours to as much as five to seven days. It boils down to the fact that the subnational laboratories are still not functional, causing RITM to do all the diagnostics on its own," Joshua San Pedro, co-convenor of the Coalition for People's Right to Health, told Philstar.com.

Some 100,000 test kits arrived in the country over the weekend but the country still lacks the capability to do a mass testing similar to that of South Korea. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told Philstar.com on Saturday that testing kits would have to be allocated.

“What is your definition of mass testing? In the end, it is still the number of test kits that will determine how many can be tested,” he said.

Aside from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the DOH accredited four additional state hospitals in the archipelago as testing centers to accelerate COVID-19 diagnosis.

"We are calling for the DOH to further expedite the process for the subnational and additional regional laboratories for COVID-19. But if anything, it goes to show that the progress of medical science and technology really has neen neglected over the years, hence the rush to cover all the bases only when a pandemic comes. We need to be more proactive in funding and planning our health and science resources in the future," San Pedro said.

The DOH has also drawn flak for the testing given to President Rodrigo Duterte and his family members, Cabinet secretaries and a number of senators despite most of them not exhibiting symptoms of the disease. 

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 343,000 people across the globe, with the death toll soaring toward 15,000. 

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