PH starting to 'flatten curve', expert warns vs 'resurgence' of COVID-19 cases if Pinoys let guard down

April 17, 2020
Community quarantine checkpoint
HELPING FLATTEN THE CURVE — Philippine National Police personnel flag down motorists at the boundary of Las Pinas and Muntinlupa as part of the strict implementation of the enhanced community quarantine to combat the COVID-19 crisis. A health expert said the coronavirus curve is starting to flatten as the government-ordered shutdown continues. Photo by JOSEPH MUEGO

CNN Philippines -- As the government-ordered shutdown continues in Luzon, data show the coronavirus curve is starting to flatten, a health expert said Friday.

“Actually we have started to see the flattening. The doubling rate has decreased. Even our number of people [who] recover has already surpassed the number of our patients dying from COVID 19,” Dr. Ted Herbosa, special adviser of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 told CNN Philippines’ New Day.

Herbosa also pointed out the country has been able to bring down the viral disease’ reproduction number to 0.65 from 1.5 -- the previous rate reported during the early stages of the enhanced community quarantine over the northern Philippines.

This means the average number of people that a person can infect decreased from more than one to less than one.

But the Philippines has to be cautious in interpreting the statistics, Herbosa said, adding it should not let its guard down to prevent a “resurgence” of cases.

Tony Leachon, a doctor and health reform advocate, earlier underscored the importance of mass testing. He noted that the numbers presented by health officials do not reflect the real situation because only selected people are tested for COVID-19 due to limited test kits.

"Flatten the curve" means spreading out the number of new coronavirus cases over a long period of time. That way, hospitals are not overwhelmed, and people can have better access to the health care system.

Dr. Drew Harris, a population health analyst at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, earlier told CNN Philippines that "flattening the curve" buys people time.

“If you have time, that’s time to prepare. That’s time to make personal protective equipment for the healthcare workers. That’s time to build extra hospitals if you need to. That’s time to begin to manufacture the testing kits so you can identify those sick with the disease," he said.

More tests to stop deaths

Herbosa raised the need to “ramp up testing” as he expressed concern about the high case mortality rate of the country, which may be due to lack of tests.

“Unfortunately, this is where we need to act because I think our fatality is one of the higher ones. I think it is the fact that we lack doing more tests.”

He backed his proposal by citing the case of South Korea, which did more tests to identify all possible cases it should isolate to avoid transmission of the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which is related to the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The country now has a case fatality rate of 6.6 percent, slightly above the global average of 6.4 percent, the Department of Health said Thursday.

But Herbosa said the government has already acknowledged that lack of testing is the “key problem in our current battle vs COVID-19.”

There are already 16 laboratories across the Philippines which could process coronavirus tests. The country is also set to purchase testing kits worth around ₱3.3 billion.