DOH expects ‘irregularly high number of cases’ this week due to reporting delays

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday, September 9, that it anticipates an "irregularly high number" of COVID-19 cases in the country in the coming days due to reporting delays.

"We may have an irregularly high number of cases in the coming days as cases from these laboratories get reported. We will ensure to highlight which of these cases are late reports," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.

Vergeire said the DOH expects that this would only be a "one time occurrence."

She explained that the reporting delay is due to a DOH order that testing laboratories submit additional information, such as the patient's address and contact number, to help in contact tracing efforts.

The DOH issued the order after local government units (LGUs) raised some concerns about the incomplete information of COVID-19 cases that has hindered their contact tracing efforts, Vergeire said.

She said that that to address this concern, the DOH has required "the case investigation form to be filled out properly and the labs to ensure that this is encoded."

Vergeire said an order was issued to laboratories in August, effective September 1, but not all of them have complied.

"This means that there are confirmed cases per day that are not reported yet officially and will come out this week because ngayon nakaka-comply na ang laboratories (the laboratories are able to comply now)," she said.

So far, the highest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases in the country was recorded on August 10, when the DOH reported 6,958 cases.

Why this matters

For the past days, the DOH had reported over 1,000 to 3,000 new cases – lower than the over 3,000 to 4,000 cases reported in previous weeks.

On Monday, the DOH reported 1,383 new confirmed coronavirus infections – its lowest single-day tally in nearly two months. This, however, was based on data submitted by only 88 out of 115 labs. 

Researchers studying the pandemic in the country said that the COVID-19 curve in Metro Manila had already flattened, but reminded the public to remain vigilant. (READ: COVID-19 curve for Metro Manila has flattened, but don't be complacent – UP expert)

Vergeire had also said on Monday said the Philippines' pandemic response strategies are "working" as the transmission rate has remained below one – now at 0.977 – and critical care utilization of cases is now at 50% for the whole country.

Vergeire, however, said that "nothing is certain at this point" as the DOH continues to monitor the pandemic situation. (READ: DOH says strategies vs pandemic 'working' as COVID-19 transmission rate stays below 1)

As of Tuesday, the Philippines – despite having the longest lockdowns in the world – still has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia with 241,987 confirmed cases. Over 50,000 of those cases are active. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.