DOH admits COVID-19 figures ‘understated’

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
DOH admits COVID-19 figures âunderstatedâ
Health workers conduct house-to-house antigen testing for residents of West Rembo in Makati City on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. The activity is part of COVID-19 response program of the office of the Vice President Leni Robredo. DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea de Guzman, said 15 areas in Metro Manila already have cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has admitted that the record number of COVID-19 cases in the country is less than the actual number.

At a congressional hearing last Tuesday, a DOH official confirmed that the figures being reported to the public by their agency are “understated,” as they did not include many infected individuals who did not undergo swab testing.

DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea de Guzman, however, stressed that such underreporting of actual cases is the same problem with most other countries.

“Even outside our country, it is underreported for several reasons. Number one, if you do not have yourselves tested through RT-PCR or antigen test, you will not be included in the data,” De Guzman told lawmakers.

“But there are also those who are asymptomatic. There are those who are unknowingly infected, they are not detected so they are not included in our total confirmed cases,” she added.

The DOH official made the confirmation upon questioning by Deputy Minority Leader and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, who raised the underreporting of cases by the government.

Quimbo shared that in her family, six of them contracted COVID-19, but only two were able to validate their condition using the RT-PCR test.

At the same hearing by the House health committee chaired by Quezon Rep. Helen Tan, the DOH also confirmed an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in all regions across the country, which it attributed to the Omicron variant and other factors, including the increase in people’s mobility.

“We have now observed an increase in cases across all regions and all provinces, highly urbanized cities and independent component cities, but there are still areas whose counts are lower than what we are seeing now in the NCR (National Capital Region) Plus, but we’re already seeing continuous and swift increases,” De Guzman said.

She noted that the increase alone in the NCR Plus – the NCR and nearby provinces – is larger than the peak observed in September last year, which was brought about by the virus’ Delta variant.

Still, hospitalization as well as severe and critical cases were less than what were observed from August to September last year.

De Guzman said the increase in cases was driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

She added that increased mobility and reduced adherence to minimum public health standards as well as the delays in detection and isolation also contributed to the spike of infections.

De Guzman emphasized that the recorded increase of cases for this month was the “fastest and largest case increase since the start of the pandemic.”

“While the increase has slowed down, we are not yet seeing any decline in our cases,” the DOH official also said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had earlier said the Philippines remains at critical risk for COVID-19 even as the growth rate of infections has slowed down.

Duque said the Omicron variant already comprises 90 percent of the latest genome sequencing.



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