DOH: 382 virus deaths due to glitch

The death toll from COVID-19 infections hit a record daily high of 382 fatalities on Tuesday, which the Department of Health said was the result of a “technical issue.”

This as the Philippines logged 9,373 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 812,760, as 10 laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the DOH reported.

“A technical issue with the case collection systems resulted in lower reporting of COVID-19 death counts over the past week,” said the DOH.

One of the information systems that collects hospital data experienced a technical failure which caused incomplete fatality numbers and data to be encoded, the department said.

“As a result of this error, there were 341 deaths prior to April 2021 that went unreported. The number of deaths reported today (Tuesday) already includes the said deaths not reported in previous counts,” said the DOH.

Total deaths were at 13,817, while active cases were at 152,562 cases, or 18.8 percent of the total cases.

Despite the additional cases, the cumulative case fatality rate for the Philippines remains low at 1.7%, and the average deaths per day for March is at 28—comparable to the 27 average deaths per day seen in February and lower than the 32 average deaths per day last January, the department said.

There has been no reported spike in the number of deaths anywhere in the country, the DOH said.

Of the active coronavirus cases, 97.5 percent are mild, 1.1 percent are asymptomatic, 0.5 percent are critical, 0.5 percent are severe, and 0.31 percent are moderate.

The DOH also reported that 313 persons recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 646, 381, which is 79.5 percent of the total.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are utilized; 48 percent of the isolation beds are utilized; 51 percent of the ward beds are utilized; and 45 percent of the ventilators are utilized for COVID cases, it added.

In Metro Manila, 82 percent of the ICU beds are utilized; 71 percent of the isolation beds are utilized; 60 percent of the ward beds are utilized; and 63 percent of the ventilators are utilized, the DOH also reported.

In pursuit of expanding the country’s testing capacity and ensuring immediate and efficient implementation of PDITR strategies, the DOH issued Department Memorandum No. 2021-0161 detailing guidelines on the use and administration of saliva-based Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

Under the memorandum, only licensed COVID-19 laboratories certified by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) can perform saliva-based RT-PCR.

Furthermore, point-of-care clinics, specimen collecting facilities, and disease reporting units can perform saliva specimen collection, provided that the specimen collectors have undergone training from the referral licensed COVID-19 laboratory certified to perform saliva testing

Additionally, said laboratories or facilities may only use test kits which have passed the performance validation conducted by the RITM or other RITM-recognized laboratories, and have a special certification from the Food and Drug Administration.

Moreover, DOH reiterates that only trained saliva specimen collectors should administer the test and only medical doctors should interpret the results of these tests as results need to be correlated with the overall clinical and epidemiological context of the patient.

DOH also maintains that nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab specimens remain as the standard specimen for the diagnosis of COVID-19 through RT-PCR testing.

The conduct of saliva tests should only be done on certain conditions and are deemed valid when such conditions are met. As stipulated in the guidelines, morning saliva is preferred as specimen due to higher viral load, but this should not prevent specimen collection at any other time.

Proper collection procedure should also be strictly observed where patients should not eat, drink, brush their teeth, use mouthwash or smoke for at least 30 minutes before sample collection.

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