COVID-19 cases on ‘artificial’ rise
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2020 - 12:00am

From the latest reckoning of the Department of Health (DOH) as of 4 p.m. yesterday, a total of 707 confirmed cases of 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) have been recorded all over the Philippines. From the previous day’s 636 total, there were 71 new patients yesterday who turned positive for COVID-19 infection.

Appearing in public again yesterday after going through seven-day self-quarantine, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III rendered this updated report on the COVID-19 cases.

For the same period, the DOH Secretary disclosed seven more new COVID-19 related deaths brought the latest total to 45 fatalities.

“We condole with the families who lost their loved ones to COVID-19,” Duque sadly expressed his sympathy in a pre-taped TV appearance. On a less sad note, Duque announced there were two more COVID-19 infected patients who have recovered from this highly contagious disease. Without giving names, Duque cited the latest recoveries bring to 28 the total number of survivors.

The Health Secretary, who chairs the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, also took the opportunity to deny claims that he supposedly interceded to help Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III who turned out to be COVID-19 positive join his pregnant wife to be admitted to the Makati Medical Center.

Pimentel’s reckless endangerment of other people constitutes criminal offense under our existing law on infectious diseases. How will then President Rodrigo Duterte react to angry netizens who posted in social media memes that copied an online newspaper tally showing 636 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Phl: 84 new cases; 38 deceased; 26 recovered; one arrested (in reference to Pimentel)?

An over eager ex-Senator and former colleague of Pimentel retweeted the same, apparently not realizing it was just a meme. Under the newly signed law called “Bayanihan Heal as One” Act, it classifies “fake news” as a criminal offense? So who gets arrested first?

Incidentally, a known opposition personality calls the “Bayanihan Heal As One” law in an acronym BAHO, which in Tagalog means bad odor.

Levity aside, Duque admitted yesterday we are not over the hump yet even as the government has implemented Luzon-wide community quarantine to stop the rising cases of COVID-19. Now going into the second week of the community quarantine, Duque told the public they still expect the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections to rise because of the acquisition of more testing kits. Duque reiterated the government’s policy of “first in, first out” in the release of results of COVID tests.

Of the 45 fatalities, there are a number of them who still await the confirmatory test results whether or not their deaths were indeed due to COVID-19 infection.

The local count of COVID-19 positive cases does not include the 500 or so Filipino seamen who reportedly contracted the contagion on board a number of cruise ships that employed them. Our government authorities here are reportedly working out arrangements with their foreign employers to repatriate them back home to the Philippines. In the meantime, they are still on board their respective cruise ships anchored in the high seas because no host country would allow them to dock lest they spread the COVID-19 infection.

For the same period, the DOH reported there are a total of 9,000 people who remain in the government’s watch list as potential COVID-19 carriers here in our country. Of this total, 6,000 are classified under persons under monitoring (PUMs), or those without symptoms but travelled to a country with local transmission and got exposed to an infected person. About 2,800 are persons under investigation (PUIs), or those with symptoms, travel history to a country with local transmission and exposure to infected persons.

Health undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire has repeatedly assuaged the public over the scare stirred by this seeming steady rise in the COVID-19 cases in our country. Calling this as “artificial” rise in the COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, Vergeire explained it was brought about by the arrival and immediate deployment of around 100,000 testing kits that were donated by the government of China.

Following existing protocols of the Department of Health (DOH), the testing for COVID-19 is limited to people and patients who have already manifested or are suffering the strong symptoms of this dreaded disease. Initially, the DOH did not have enough testing kits to even administer for suspected COVID-19 infection. That’s why the same politicians have earlier accused the DOH as not allegedly being transparent and supposedly downgrading or downplaying the COVID cases here in our country.

Of course, Vergeire cited, the Philippine government does not have to rely for donations but it will have to procure and must purchase needed testing kits in addition to the donated ones. In fact, our own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had earlier approved COVID-19 testing kits developed commercially by private companies here and from abroad that could now fill in the shortage of supply.

Riding on this “artificial rise” of COVID-19 cases, a number of high-profile politicians have been pressing the government to conduct mass testing for COVID-19. For what reason will it do good for the healthy ones to undergo such test?

You can just imagine how much more public panic it would create if there would be mass testing for COVID-19. During these times of pandemic crisis, we can only ignore these politicians—no matter how well meaning they maybe—but they are obviously out only to gain brownie points for fear of being irrelevant.

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