MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) urged Philippine health officials to conduct verification of COVID-19 cases in a “much faster scale,” noting that quicker reporting of infections can help the public take precautionary measures more effectively.
Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO’s representative to the Philippines, underscored on Tuesday the importance of expediting the verification process of COVID-19 cases.
“This is what we have been urging the DOH [Department of Health] to do and we are seeing an improvement in that information sharing but this is a process and we are hoping that this validation of information can be done on a much faster scale so that information can be shared readily with the public,” Abeyasinghe said during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) online forum.
“If this is done, the public can take measures to protect themselves more effectively…In this outbreak, we’ve seen that what is most important is speedy contract tracing. To get an initial speedy contract tracing and make quarantining and isolation possible, you need to be able to get testing results very early,” he added.
According to Abeyasinghe, the public should also be informed of where transmission is happening and not just on the number of cases.
“It’s not just about the number of cases, the public also should be made aware of where is that transmission happening in what situations, which closed settings are actually contributing to transmission so that they can actually protect themselves by avoiding going to those places and avoiding those situations or areas,” he said.
The WHO representative said the processing of test results should “ideally be done within 24 hours.”
“Early on in the outbreak, we had significant backlogs in testing. WHO is happy to note that now the backlogs are reduced to I believe less than 48 hours in getting testing results,” he noted.
“But the shorter this period is, the earlier the initiation of contact tracing and suppression measures can happen,” he added.
A “further narrowing down of the window and where the results are released earlier” is preferable, Abeyasinghe said.
“It’s apparent that the Philippines is making progress and we urge that window to be narrowed further. While we work to reduce the time for sharing of lab testing results, it’s also important to share that information with the public,” he added.
“It is important that this information is shared with the public so that the public can take measures on their own to avoid these avenues and situations and adopt protective behaviors to protect themselves,” he further noted.
To date, Philippine health officials have confirmed 57,545 cases of the coronavirus. Of the number, 1,603 patients have died while 20,459 have recovered.
Globally, over 12.7 million individuals have so far been infected by the new coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, which originated from Wuhan City in China’s Hubei province late last year. More than 566,000 have died from the disease across the world.
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