Health care workers prepare for the swab testing of drivers in Quezon City on July 31, 2020.
The STAR/Boy Santos
DOH: Philippines’ policy on recovered patients backed by science, done in other countries
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - July 31, 2020 - 3:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — The new protocol of declaring as recovered mild and asymptomatic coronavirus patients after completing 14-day quarantines is based on scientific evidence and is being done in other countries, the Department of Health said Friday. 

This came after the department announced Thursday 38,075 additional COVID-19 survivors—the biggest increase in recoveries in a single day—resulting in a steep rise in the number of people who were given clean bill of health.

The number of recoveries leapt to 70%—65,064—from only 30% of the country’s confirmed cases, which stood at 89,374. This development drew apprehensions and questions from the public.

Such massive jump in the number of recoveries was due to data reconciliation with local governments and re-tagging of mild and asymptomatic patients as recovered 14 days from the date they had their symptoms or from the date their specimens were collected if they do not have any symptoms.

Of the over 38,000 additional recoveries reported Thursday, 37,166 had been re-tagged as recovered.

'Clinically recovered'

The country’s recovery policy requires a patient to be “clinically recovered”—or resolving symptoms or no longer experiencing coronavirus-related symptoms—and to complete a14-day quarantine. A physician’s assessment is also needed for a person to be tagged as recovered after the isolation period.

The government’s inter-agency pandemic task force also approved Resolution 60, which adopted the recommendation of DOH to implement a “time-based reckoning” for coronavirus recoveries.

“This is not an assumption anymore because this is based on scientific evidence and experts across the globe are already backing this and it’s now being implemented in other countries,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, noting this clinical recovery protocol is followed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the European CDC and India.

In a scientific brief published June 17, the World Health Organization said symptomatic patients may be released from isolation 10 days after the onset of symptoms plus at least three additional days without symptoms.

Asymptomatic patients, meanwhile, may be discharged from isolation 10 days after testing positive for the virus.

No need for retesting

Previously, a patient could be only classified as recovered if two test results come out as negative. But now, discharge and recovery criteria for confirmed COVID-19 cases no longer entail repeat testing.

Other countries also removed testing as a requirement for recovery, Vergeire said.

She explained that reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction tests—dubbed as the “gold standard” in coronavirus testing—detects the presence of virus inside a body but “doesn’t tell you if the virus is infectious.”

“Let us always remember that RT-PCR test is a basis for infection but not a basis for recovery,” the Health official said.

The World Health Organization also said that the initial recommendation of two negative RT-PCR tests at least 24 hours apart “has been extremely difficult” in light of limited laboratory supplies, equipment and personnel in areas with intense transmission, especially outside hospital settings.

Vergeire reminded recovered patients to still adhere to minimum health standards such as wearing of mask, practicing physical distancing and washing of hands frequently even after they beat the severe respiratory illness.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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