Philippines' decline in Covid-19 cases may be 'artificial': Health department

Detected new infections have been on a downtrend lately in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon and Mindanao. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Philippines' recent decline in daily new Covid-19 cases could be artificial as the volume of Covid-19 tests has gone down across the country and hospitals remain congested, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday (Oct 4).

The Philippines last month saw 17,000 to 20,000 new cases detected daily and an average of 122 deaths each day, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus,

But detected new infections have been on a downtrend lately in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon and Mindanao. New cases have also plateaued in the Visayas, according to DOH data.

Only six of the country's 17 regions are still classified as high risk, namely the Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos, Mimaropa, Zamboanga peninsula and Bicol.

The nationwide reproduction number has also fallen below one, which indicated no further transmission.

But the data did not necessarily reflect the situation on the ground, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing on Monday.

Total tests conducted in the past week of 69,055 a day had fallen by 11.8 per cent from the previous week.

The volume of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) laboratory tests to confirm infection has gone down in 14 of the country's 17 regions, with the biggest decrease observed in Metro Manila.

Some local governments in Metro Manila have also confirmed that the number of tests reported to them has declined in the last two weeks, Dr Vergeire said.

The DOH also pointed out that the decline in detected cases has not decongested hospitals.

Nationwide intensive care unit (ICU) beds usage remained at a high-risk 73 per cent, while utilisation of hospital beds was at 64 per cent. The health system capacity of most regions was also at high risk.

"There are still many people getting admitted," Dr Vergeire said.

"We don't like to give false hopes to the public. We have to be definite and we have to confirm it before we say that cases are going down and there are less admissions in hospitals," she stressed.

The DOH's case collection system, called COVIDKaya, has also been experiencing "technical issues" for the past three weeks, Dr Vergeire said.

On Monday night, the DOH reported 10,748 new cases and 61 more deaths. This brought the country's total to 2,604,040 confirmed cases and 38,828 deaths.

Of the 106,160 active cases, 82.7 per cent were mildly ill, 2.7 per cent severe and 1.2 per cent critical.

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