‘Maraming marami:’ DOH admits ‘weaknesses’ as it eyes improved COVID-19 reporting system, response

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 23) — The Department of Health admitted on Tuesday ‘weaknesses’ in its handling of the coronavirus response, but assured the public it is working on improving its processes and systems.

“Maraming marami (a lot)” was Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire’s response when asked if there is any aspect in the COVID-19 response that DOH wants to improve.

The first on the department's list is its highly questioned information system, which serves as the basis for the quarantine restrictions imposed in the country, and other policies aimed at controlling COVID-19 transmission.

‘Unang una, gusto natin magka-improvement dito sa ating information system,’ Vergeire told reporters in a media forum.

[Translation: First of all, we want to see improvements in our information system.]

“We saw a lot of weaknesses in our system. We want to improve in time, so we can have a more appropriate response,” the official added. The department aims to see developments ‘in the next few weeks’ at the earliest.

A former adviser to the special adviser to COVID-19 national task force and lawmakers previously expressed concern with the way the DOH reports data on COVID-19, which is now being probed by the Office of the Ombudsman, saying it is confusing and may not be credible. The department, on the other hand, stood by the ‘integrity’ of its reports as it argued that no data could be 100-percent accurate.

Next in their priority list are improving health facilities and further expanding the country’s testing capacity, Vergeire added.

The DOH said actual tests done Sunday, June 21, were 10,967 - slightly below the weekly average of 12,400, and significantly lower than its ‘rated’ or estimated daily testing capacity of 50,000.

But the agency noted 'indications' that the country is flattening the curve or slowing the spread of the highly contagious novel coronavirus, including the low critical care utilization rate and longer case doubling time. But the public has to be cautious in interpreting this announcement, Vergeire pointed out, as there are still areas in the country with local spikes in coronavirus infections like Cebu City.

Vergeire explained that the current critical care utilization rate of the Philippines is around 35 to 36 percent, which means the national healthcare system has not been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 yet. That rate refers to the percentage utilized out of all available mechanical ventilators and isolation beds in temporary facilities as well as hospitals.

Meanwhile, it now takes 7.26 days to double the number of infections in the country, from two to three days before movement restrictions were implemented in mid-March, Vergeire said.