COVID-19 curve âalmost plateauedâ but not yet flattened
According to Duque, the country seems to be on its way to flattening the curve, judging from the rate of “doubling time of cases.”
KJ Rosales, file

COVID-19 curve ‘almost plateaued’ but not yet flattened

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is hopeful that the country would be able to flatten the curve of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as the increase of cases has started to taper.

According to Duque, the country seems to be on its way to flattening the curve, judging from the rate of “doubling time of cases.”

“The metrics like doubling time, death rate have almost plateaued. We have several more days to see if the plateau will now reflect a beginning downtrend,” he noted during the turnover of 10,000 locally manufactured personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) yesterday.

Duque said cases have “almost plateaued, but we have yet to reach the stage of flattening the curve to the extent that we would have wanted it.”

He said the Department of Health (DOH) is hopeful this would happen as the “doubling time” has risen to 14 days.

He cited that 3,000 cases as of April 5 only doubled last April 19, instead of April 9 as expected.

“This is a proof that doubling time has in fact been prolonged, which is good. The next few days might help us get a more complete picture. But it already reached a plateau,” he added.

He said that cases would certainly go up again if the enhanced community quarantine is lifted.

Duque said the 10,000 PPE sets comprised the first tranche of the 300,000 produced and to be donated by member-companies of the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP) for frontliners.

“As our frontliners risk their lives every day to save other people, the DOH is committed to providing all the support needed to protect our frontliners in fulfilling their duties,” he maintained.

He added the DOH is “grateful” to the CONWEP members for producing the much-needed PPEs.

President Duterte has vowed to give a substantial grant to the University of the Philippines’ PGH to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, Malacañang said yesterday.

Malacañang said the President is setting aside the still undetermined amount, which is different from the P10-million award that the Chief Executive will give to anyone who can invent a vaccine for COVID-19.

“Science is in charge,” the National Task Force for COVID-19 said in a statement yesterday.

Duterte has reiterated that the COVID-19 problem is a difficult challenge for every Filipino and the rest of the world, which can only be dealt with head-on once a vaccine is found.

Healthcare workers

The DOH reported yesterday that 1,062 healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19, of whom 26 have died.

This means that health workers account for 16 percent of the 6,710 confirmed COVID-19 cases documented by the DOH as of yesterday.

At a press conference, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that of the 1,062 healthcare workers, 422 are doctors, 386 are nurses, 30 are medical technologists, 21 are radiologic technologists while 51 are nursing assistants.

Vergeire said there are 152 cases from various groups of frontliners, including those in the administrative workforce and barangay health workers.

The DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO) are investigating if Philippine healthcare facilities are following the guidelines on infection control.

“We are ready to provide support to our frontliners who have been sacrificing in this fight against COVID-19 every day,” she added.

Last Tuesday, WHO-Western Pacific Region COVID-19 Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud said that the rate of healthcare workers in the Philippines who contracted the virus is higher than the regional average and this is “very worrisome.”

Mahamud added the Philippines posted a 13 percent infection rate for healthcare workers while the regional average is only two to three percent.

Vergeire also announced that they are expecting 3,000 GeneXpert test kits to arrive on Saturday, strengthening the country’s testing capability.

“This is only the initial (batch). More will come depending on the capacity of our laboratories. At present, there are 16 laboratories that have been identified to do test using GeneXpert,” she maintained.

Since the Philippines has not developed a vaccine yet, Duterte has signified the Philippines’ intent with Japan to submit patients for clinical trials of anti-influenza drug Avigan before the end of the month.

The Philippines expressed willingness to participate in the clinical trials for Avigan during a virtual summit recently with leaders of Southeast Asian countries, Japan, China and South Korea.

During the teleconference, reports said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that there are 50 countries interested in studying the drug further as a potential treatment for COVID-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2.

Avigan is manufactured by a group firm of Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp., which has recently started boosting its production of the drug, aiming to have enough supply to treat 300,000 patients a month by September.

Aside from the clinical trials for Avigan, the Philippines, along with 69 other countries, will also participate in the tests organized by the World Health Organization for five other drugs.

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