COVID-19 deaths may be underreported due to poor access to healthcare, Leachon says
This undated photo shows health reform advocate Tony Leachon.
Tony Leachon, Facebook

COVID-19 deaths may be underreported due to poor access to healthcare, Leachon says

(Philstar.com) - August 2, 2020 - 12:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — Thousands of deaths linked to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were not included in the government's official tally, a former adviser of the task force against the pandemic said  Sunday.

Speaking in an interview aired over ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, former National Task Force for COVID-19 special adviser Dr. Tony Leachon speculated that around 4,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 were no longer recorded because people who were ill with the disease passed away before getting tested.     

"The way I see it, our deaths are underreported, maybe around 4,000 of them because many of those who go to emergency rooms in our hospital, at the Philippine General Hospital, and in many other hospitals, the patients would only come to the hospital already in serious condition because, of course, they don’t have money," he said in Filipino. 

"Some patients who arrive in the hospitals are already in severe conditions, and we no longer have the chance to conduct a swab test on them because they die there. But our diagnosis [and reporting] is based on the swab test...So, they are not recorded. But when they go through the X-ray test, it would show the patients have COVID-19 pneumonia. But again, we can’t report them," he added.

According to Leachon, the country has one of the fastest “acceleration” of cases in Southeast Asia where it leads the region in the number of active cases. The health reform advocate pointed out that unlike in countries like China and Singapore, instead of flattening, the country's coronavirus curve is still steadily rising despite the capital going through enhanced community quarantine in March.

Most areas in the Philippines are still under general community quarantine and the Department of Health is still logging thousands of cases each day.

Mega Manila 'time-out'

On Saturday, a number of professionals within the healthcare sector penned an open letter to the government's coronavirus task force calling for a renewed enhanced community quarantine to be hoisted over Mega Manila in order for the government to recalibrate its strategies amid the pandemic.

The medical workers also said this was so frontliners, who have already been stretched thin, could have a brief respite or a "time-out" from the pandemic. 

Leachon said he had called for enhanced community quarantine since mid-July, when some 2,000 cases were being added to the national caseload every day.

"We're not saying any changes, so they want an ECQ again," he said. 

The health department posted record-highs in single-day leap on Friday and again on Saturday, the 137th day since ECQ was first implemented in March, with 4,963 new infections. 

General community quarantine over Metro Manila was extended on Friday until August 15. 

As it stands, the Philippines is already under the world's longest quarantine, while the national caseload stands at 98,232 patients. — Franco Luna

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