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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Health Committee tackles COVID-19 waves, real-time data, info system, contact tracing
22 May 2020 09:42:59 PM

The House Committee on Health chaired by Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan (4th District, Quezon) held an online meeting Thursday with officials of different government agencies to discuss the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Among those invited to give their presentations were Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III, COVID-19 National Task Force Undersecretary Isidro Purisima, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) President Ricardo Morales, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Ricojudge Echeverri, DOH Chief Epidemiologist Dr. John Wong, and University of Santo Tomas Hospital Chief of the Section of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Dr. Benjamin Co.

Tan raised the importance of real time data. She asked Duque if there is an initiative or move to improve data collection to achieve a correct assessment of data by having a robust information technology (IT) system.

Duque said they are aggressively addressing and levelling up their information system. He said their epidemiology bureau information system has already migrated its data to COVID KAYA, a medical information related system for COVID-19, with World Health Organization (WHO) assistance.

Meanwhile, Rep. Micaela Violago (2nd District, Nueva Ecija) asked for clarification on why the transmission classification in the Philippines is community while those in the Western Pacific countries are classified as cluster cases or sporadic cases.

Wong explained there are several stages of transmission, the first of which is imported transmission when all of the cases come from outside the country. The next stage is local transmission when there are local cases infected by the imported cases and these local cases start to infect local people. Sustained community transmission happens when there are more local cases but the source of infection can no longer be located.

Wong further said the contract tracing done by the DOH with 80 percent effectiveness is quite high because Singapore has contact tracing efficiency of about 50 percent.

As to Violago’s query regarding DOH’s statement that the country is already in its second wave of COVID-19, Duque clarified that his statement was a casual expression of an epidemiologic fact. He said that indeed there was a first wave, but very small which consisted of just three imported cases in January.

Duque explained that in an epidemiological sense, cases that show a rise or a crest and then a decrease or a trough constitute a wave. “We have nothing for February and this was followed by a bigger wave which is what we now consider as the first major wave of sustained community transmission,” he said.

Wong said that because the virus is new and very few people have immunity to it, the country is going to have a series of waves until a vaccine or treatment is found. He said that as long as people practice the indicated measure and can maintain it, then “we can postpone or delay another wave.”