WHILE the Philippines is doing relatively well in its fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), its government’s decision to ease lockdown measures has resulted in an increase in the number of Covid cases to “worrying levels”.
“We are seeing areas or localities that have seen increased transmission rates and the test positivity rate is higher than the national average,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO country director for the Philippines, told a Laging Handa public briefing aired on state-run PTV-4 on Tuesday.
Abeysinghe said the Department of Health should expand testing capacity and invest more in contact tracing and isolation to prevent transmission of cases.
“Unfortunately, this aspect of the Philippine response needs a little more strengthening… it is not keeping pace with the expansion of testing capacity.” he said.
Abeyasinghe said the country’s enforcement of early lockdowns helped prevent the rise of hundreds of thousands of deaths and allowed the government to expand the capacity of hospitals and isolation centers.
He said that places such as the NCR (National Capital Region), Cebu City have a concentration of high case numbers while provinces in Region 8 such as Leyte and Samar are being considered as “emerging hotspots”.
Sought for comment, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that Abeyasinghe’s observations on the Department of Health’s deficiencies were “valid”, especially on contact tracing and isolation facilities.
“Itong mga ganitong mga (These) gaps in our management… plus gaps in contact tracing might be a contributing factor dito sa (in the) transmission na nakikita natin sa ngayon (that we see today). ” Vergeire told reporters in a media briefing,
Abeyasinghe also slammed media reports that suggested that the Philippines had the highest number of cases in the WHO Western Pacific region, where the country is located.
He said the WHO did not compare countries or make assessments on the case numbers.