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DOH expects increase in COVID-19 recovery logs after revision of discharge protocols

The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said an increased log in recovered COVID-19 cases in the country may be expected in the coming days due to the recent change in its protocol for discharging persons from hospitals and quarantine facilities.

In a virtual media forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated that the DOH no longer requires a COVID-19 patient to yield negative results from re-tests to get discharged and be considered "recovered."

"We shifted to symptoms-based approach in our new protocol for discharges and recoveries. Sinasabi natin doon na as long as the patient do not exhibit symptoms at all—three days na and naka-reach na rin siya ng 10th day niya nung sakit niya—maaari na siyang i-clear ng kaniyang physician na umuwi," Vergeire said.

"For those asymptomatic, basta nakumpleto na niya ang 14 na araw niya na wala siyang sintomas they can already go home without having to be tested," she added.

After 14 more days of self-quarantine at home, these patients can already be tagged as "recovered," according to the DOH official.

She added that the DOH is also studying the possibility of further lowering to seven days this additional quarantine period.

"With this updated guidelines, makakadagdag ito sa doon sa mga recoveries natin," Vergeire said.

Further, she said the previous protocol requiring re-tests of patients was a burden to the family and the health system.

"Kasi imbes na nakakapag-admit na tayo ng bagong kaso ng COVID-19, hindi natin mapalabas ang pasyente because we are waiting for the shifting of positive to negative [results] nung tao," she said.

Vergeire assured that the new protocol in discharging and tagging of recovered cases is backed by evidence that  beyond a COVID-19 patient's 10th day of illness, he or she is no longer considered infectious.

She explained that the very reason why some patients still yield positive results in COVID-19 tests despite being actually recovered is the fact that the RT-PCR test is very sensitive and detects even just remnants of the virus.

"RT-PCR is not a measure of cure kasi nga hindi naman sasabihin ng RT PCR sa'yo kung ang isang tao ay nakakapanghawa pa o hindi na. Ang sasabihin lang sayo ng RT-PCR nade-detect ko pa 'yung virus sa loob ng katawan mo," she said.

Recovered cases at homes

The progress of recovery of those who have not been hospitalized and were under home quarantine are being monitored by barangay health emergency response teams.

"Ang function nila i-monitor lahat ng naka-quarantine sa bahay. Kailangan pagkatapos na ng quarantine period ay mai-tag nila 'yan at mabigyan nila ng certificate na you have just recovered, na cleared ka na," Vergeire said.

"Ang dami na hindi na namonitor ng health emergency response teams, hindi natin na-tag if they were recovered or if they have died because of the disease," she added.

Because of this gap, a team tasked to specifically track down and verify recoveries was formed and is already working under the Oplan Recovery.

As of June 25, the Philippines recorded a total of 33,069 COVID-19 cases with 8,910 recoveries and 1,212 deaths.

Out of the total number of confirmed cases, 22,947 are still considered "active." These active cases will only have two outcomes eventually—recovery or death. — RSJ, GMA News