Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr. on Thursday, July 30, announced a decline in the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reproduction number, or R0 (pronounced as R naught), which now stands at 1.3.
R0 indicates how contagious an infectious disease is or how many people can an infected person infect.
Secretary Roque, citing data from Professor Ranjit Rye of the University of the Philippines, in a press briefing held in Quezon City, said, “Ang ideal po dyan ay 1 or below 1, pero dati-dati po ang ating R naught ay 1.7. Pero sabi po ni Prof. Ranjit Rye, ang R naught natin ngayon ay bumaba to 1.3.”
The Palace official underscored that this figure means the government strategy to combat the spread of the disease is indeed working. “Ang ibig sabihin po nito kung anuman ang ginagawa ng gobyerno, bagama’t tumataas ang numero, ay nag-improve naman ang R naught na ibig sabihin mas kakaunti na ang nahahawa ng mga nagkakasakit. Nung nakalipas po 1.7, round off 2. Ang isang tao, 2 tao ang nahahawa niya. Ngayon po 1.3, round off 1, isang tao po ang nahahawa ng isang COVID[-19] positive,” explained Secretary Roque.
In the same media briefing, the government’s designated anti-COVID-19 czars with National Task Force (NTF) Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., discussed current updates on the government’s COVID-19 response and strategies.
Secretary Galvez said that to address the current surge in COVID-19 cases, the NTF, together with the anti-COVID-19 czars, will be implementing aggressive testing especially during lockdowns in special concern areas, while intensifying effective contact tracing. He added that they are also doing aggressive isolation, tapping hotels to provide more rooms for the isolation of COVID-19 positive individuals.
The NTF Chief Implementer likewise reported that they are continuously building isolation and treatment capacity by converting evacuation centers to health isolation centers and fast-tracking the construction and expansion of some hospitals in Metro Manila to accommodate more patients.
In terms of testing, Chief Testing Czar Secretary Vivencio “Vince” Dizon announced that there are now 94 COVID-19 testing laboratories nationwide, which helped reach almost 1.4 million tests done as of July 26. This puts the Philippines second to South Korea (with 1.5 million tests done) among the countries in Asia in terms of the most number of COVID-19 tests done, followed by Malaysia on the third spot with around 932,000 tests, Japan with around 780,000 tests, and Indonesia having tested some 700,000 of its citizens.
Secretary Dizon also reported that the target set for July, which is 30,000 daily tests, has already been surpassed as daily tests has reached 33,000 as of July 25. He also underscored that with the expanded testing strategy, which the Department of Health already put in a memorandum, the number of people to be tested and the frequency of tests were likewise expanded to include regular testing of healthcare workers and other frontliners like our soldiers and police officers, security guards, drivers of public utility vehicles, among others.
The Chief Testing Czar emphasized as well that all those with co-morbidities and the vulnerable sector will be tested per their doctor’s advice. Similarly, constituents of LGUs in declared hotspots for barangay lockdowns will now be tested.
Also part of the expanded testing strategy is the inclusion of frontline workers in declared tourist priority zones of the Department of Tourism, in ecozones or manufacturing zones, and in declared special concern areas like the National Capital Region, Cebu, Metro Davao, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon. Sec Dizon said that testing is free and will be shouldered by PhilHealth.
Meanwhile, Chief Tracing Czar Mayor Benjamin Magalong reported the continuous conduct of trainers’ training for contact tracers in various regions and local government units (LGUs) in the country and that they are continuously assisting LGUs to improve contact tracing capacity.
On the other hand, Chief Treatment Czar Health Undersecretary Leopoldo “Bong” Vega stressed that the danger zone in terms of isolation ward and ICU bed capacity reported by some hospitals is only based on the 30% capacity for COVID-19 as required by the government. Usec. Vega called on hospitals to expand their bed capacity for COVID-19 to accommodate more patients.
For her part, Mayor Joy Belmonte, who hosted today’s media briefing in the Quezon City Hall, thanked the government for the conduct of the Revitalized Testing Program in the city, wherein some 60,000 Grab drivers will be tested. The testing of Grab drivers that started today was held at the Quezon City Memorial Circle. ### OPS-PCOO