DOH explains highest daily spike in infections: Only 20% were 'fresh cases'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 29) — The Philippines reported its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases this week, when much of the country is preparing for relaxed quarantine measures.

The Department of Health in an online media briefing on Friday explained the recent spike in reported infections should not be a cause for concern since most of the cases were diagnosed weeks ago.

Only 109 out of the 539 new COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday were "fresh cases," or were confirmed only in the past three days.

"Ang balanse na humigit kumulang 400 ay mga late cases o mga kaso na ang mga resulta ay lumabas noong nakaraaan pang linggo pero kahapon lamang po nasubmit ang mga laboratory results nila, kaya kahapon lang rin po na-validate ng Epidemiology Bureau ng DOH," Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

[Translation: The balance of more or less 400 were late cases or those with results that came out last week but whose laboratory results were submitted only yesterday. That's why the DOH's Epidemiology Bureau was able to validate them only yesterday.]

Vergeire said the validation of cases is important to ensure that there is no double counting or over-reporting of cases.

Dr. Troy Gepte, a public health epidemiologist, explained that the validation process really takes time, but stressed that it is being addressed now as the government works on unifying data collection and reporting, in coordination with the World Health Organization.

Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases, Vergeire said other factors contributed to the government's decision to put Metro Manila under a more relaxed general community quarantine, while most of the country will transition to an even less strict modified GCQ.

Vergeire explained that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the country has been decreasing, based on the date of death. The time it takes for confirmed infections to double has shortened to seven days, Vergeire said, citing an improvement from the previous three to four days.

On top of this, she said the country presently has a 36 percent critical utilization rate, which means there are still more facilities to accommodate patients.

The number of COVID-19 cases nationwide rose to 15,588 on Thursday, with 921 deaths and 3,598 recoveries.

On Friday, the health department delayed the release of its case bulletin. The agency said it will be released at 8 p.m. because some of the data are still being validated.

The DOH instead provided an update on the number of infected healthcare workers, saying 28 more medical frontliners have contracted the virus, bringing the total to 2,480. A total of 1,228 have recovered, while the death toll remained at 31.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, reported 24 new COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad. The total number of overseas Filipinos who have caught the virus is now at 2,845. Of this number, 340 have died while 947 have recovered.