Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday advised people who have symptoms of COVID-19 to manage their condition as if they really have the disease caused by the new coronavirus instead of waiting to get tested.
“If you already know the symptoms, manage it as if it’s COVID-19. If all indications suggest that it’s probably COVID-19, why wait for a test? Manage it as COVID-19 right away. You assume. That’s the way to do it,” Duque said in a television interview.
Among the symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, cold, shortness of breath, and diarrhea.
Mass testing not possible
Duque’s advice came amid calls for mass testing for the disease, which he said was not possible at this time because the country did not have enough testing kits.
“We have to rationalize, prioritize those who belong to the vulnerable sector—the elderly and those with underlying conditions,” Duque said.
“Do we have to test each and every Filipino? That’s 104 million. I think no country would be able to do mass testing to the extent of the population of the [Philippines],” he added.
Duque also said it was still too early to tell if the Philippines was winning its battle against the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases was still rising.
“It’s hard to say for now. It’s still too early. Still premature,” he said.
Earlier, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the spike in the number of confirmed cases may be “artificial”—the result of the country’s improved capability to test for infections with the acquisition of more testing kits, activation of additional testing centers, and return of test results.
“The capacity of our laboratories is now stabilizing. We’re now catching up with our backlogs. This is because we also have extended the capacity of our laboratories so more tests are coming in,” Vergeire said in a radio interview on Sunday.
On Thurday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesperson for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, said he believed the Philippines was “managing” compared with other countries.
“Other nations larger and richer than us have higher numbers. They seem to have a problem. But here, if you look at our numbers, I think were’ managing,” Nograles said in a radio interview.
Cases top 700
As of Thursday, the Philippines has 707 confirmed coronavirus cases, 71 more than the tally on Wednesday. Duque said seven more patients had died, bringing the death toll to 45.
But the number of patients who have recovered has also risen, he said, with two more getting well, raising the total to 28.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) assured the public that it would pay for the medical expenses of people who would catch the coronavirus, including medical workers attending to confirmed cases in hospitals.
Ricardo Morales, president and CEO of PhilHealth, said the agency had already released P1.6 billion out of the initial P30 billion financial assistance it had committed to accredited hospitals as response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Anybody who gets sick with COVID-19 don’t have to shell out money, whether public or private hospital. PhilHealth will cover it, whatever it takes,” Morales told a news briefing on Thursday.
But PhilHealth can only cover the expenses of people confined in hospitals, he said, explaining that the medicines and procedures used on hospital patients are prescribed.
“We cannot cover the expenses of those who are undergoing home quarantine because we don’t know what medicines and process they used,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.