No need for negative swab test to be declared as recovered patient – Dizon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 31) — COVID-19 patients no longer need to have a negative swab test to be declared as virus-free after weeks of getting infected, the country's testing czar said Friday as he explained the one-time surge in recoveries.

National COVID-19 task force deputy implementer Vince Dizon said the 38,075 recoveries reported by the Department of Health on Thursday implements new rules set by the agency following updated global practices.

"Hindi na kailangan ng (negative) PCR test bago ma-tag na recovered ang isang pasyente. Ang advice ng WHO (World Health Organization) at ng ibang mga experts at sa pagsunod ng standards ng ibang bansa, kung ang isang tao na may COVID-19 after ng incubation period na 14 days ay wala nang sintomas –– wala nang lagnat, ubo, sipon, hindi na hihirapang huminga –– sila po ay considered recovered na," Dizon told CNN Philippines' The Source.

[Translation: You no longer need a (negative) PCR test before you can be tagged as a recovered patient. The advice of the WHO and other experts, and based on international standards, is that when a COVID-19 patient finished the 14-day incubation period without showing symptoms like fever, cough, colds, and difficulty in breathing, they are already considered recovered.]

Dizon said Singapore even counts a shorter period of 10-12 days.

Patients who remain in the hospital for treatment and those who died are not counted, he added.

The DOH earlier attributed the spike in recoveries to its enhanced data reconciliation efforts under its "Oplan Recovery" initiative to actively track the condition of patients. This will be done every 15 days.

When the Philippines tallied its first imported case in late January, the DOH required a patient to have two negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests to be declared fully recovered from the disease. Dizon said in recent months, the requirement was scaled down to just one negative swab test upon the advice of health experts, including the World Health Organization, before the latest change in protocol.

The PCR test is dubbed the "gold standard" for confirming the presence of the coronavirus in the body, against rapid test kits which only detect the presence of antibodies for an infection.

RELATED: Rapid tests may show false negative results, DOH reminds

Dizon said the DOH tracked cases confirmed from July 16 and earlier and traced all the way to the beginning of June. The country tallied 18,086 infections as of end-May and added more than 43,000 confirmed cases by mid-July.

President Rodrigo Duterte eased Cebu City's strict lockdown and placed the area, alongside Metro Manila and select provinces and cities nationwide, under general community quarantine which allows more movement. All other areas are under the more relaxed modified GCQ status until August 15.

The country now has 89,374 confirmed cases, surpassing China’s numbers at around 87,000 based on the Johns Hopkins University tracker. There are roughly 20,000 people still recovering from the disease while 1,983 have died.