At least two opposition senators on Friday slammed the Department of Health (DOH) for its "mass recovery" adjustment that tagged more than 37,000 mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in the country as recovered on July 30.
Senator Risa Hontiveros pointed out the irony that mass recovery even preceded mass testing in the Philippines.
"Wala pa ngang mass testing, may mass recovery na! Nakakalito at nakakaduda ang papalit-palit na reporting system sa COVID-19," she said in a statement.
"Dahil sa kabagalan ng pag-collate at pag-report ng data, at ngayon pati sa recovered cases, nalilito na ang publiko," she added.
Hontiveros urged the DOH to clearly communicate to the public this time-based tagging of recovered COVID-19 patients.
"Data is vital. Hindi tayo makakatugon nang maayos kung hindi natin alam ang kumpletong larawan ng problema. People are anxious and tired. Huwag na nating dagdagan, DOH," she added.
On Thursday, 38,075 new recoveries in the country were reported by the DOH — 37,166 were mild or asymptomatic cases recorded in June and July who have been re-tagged as recovered, while 909 were newly reported by regional and epidemiological surveillance units for July 30.
Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan warned that this new interpretation of recovery could give patients a false sense of security without going through another swab test to confirm that they are free from the virus.
"May himala ba? May madyik? Ang mga doktor, dapat nagpapagaling sa pasyente, hindi nangdudoktor ng numero at impormasyon," he said in a separate statement.
"Makakapanghawa at mas maraming magkakasakit pag ang maysakit ay tinawag na ‘recovered’ kung hindi naman ito na-test. Patayin ba ang taumbayan ang gustong mangyari ng gobyerno?" he added.
According to the DOH's Department Memorandum 2020-0258, asymptomatic and mild cases of COVID-19 should be tagged as recovered 14 days from onset of symptom or from date of specimen collection.
"Current recovery policies now show that at the 10th day of illness, the risk of transmitting the virus to other people is significantly reduced. This clinical recovery protocol is followed by the US CDC, European CDC, and India," the DOH said in a statement.
Further, it explained that COVID-19 tests are conducted to detect infection, not recovery.
"This is the norm - to NOT get tested. As long as no symptoms arise during the 14 days quarantine, the patient is considered recovered," said Dr. Beverly Ho, DOH Director for Promotion and Communication Service.
"Test for infection uses TEST-BASED strategy. Test for recovery uses SYMPTOM-BASED strategy," she added.
As of July 30, the Philippines has 89,374 cases of COVID-19 of which, 22,327 remain active; 65,064 are considered as recovered; and 1,983 have died. —KBK, GMA News