IN CHARTS: COVID-19 cases in the Philippines

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) has been issuing daily reports on the status of confirmed cases in the country. 

Over 10 months since the first confirmed case on January 30, the total number of cases in the Philippines already breached 434,000 on Wednesday, December 2.

The total number of new cases reported on August 10, at 6,958, is the highest so far, surpassing the tally on August 4, which had 6,352 new cases.

After that, the country's 7-day average for new cases went below the 3,000 level in late September, then dipped below 2,000 by late October.

The chart below shows the number of confirmed cases reported by the DOH per day, including the distinction between "fresh" and "late" cases from May 28 until late July. See also the country's 7-day running average for daily new cases:

In its separate daily situation reports, the DOH uses the date of onset of illness (or in its absence, the date of specimen collection) to show the earliest occurrence of the virus in each case. This is prior to the further validation of the cases that allow their inclusion in the official counts.

Looking at this chart, using data as of December 2, the number of new cases per day started to go up around late May and June, and continued to rise in July and early August, with the highest one-day count so far at 4,536 recorded on August 10. From there, it has gone down to below 2,000 so far.

Community quarantines in many areas around the country had been relaxed around June, but some had returned or remained under strict lockdowns. So far, November marks the first full month when no area in the country is under the strictest quarantine classifications.

Cumulative counts

As of December 2, a total of 26,916 out of 434,357 cases were said to be active, comprising 6.2% of all confirmed cases.

See below how the total number for confirmed cases, active cases, deaths, and recoveries have progressed each day in the country, based on the DOH's data.

(Find out the breakdown of cases per major area: Metro Manila | Luzon | Visayas | Mindanao)

Deaths

As of December 2, there have been 8,436 deaths out of 434,357 confirmed cases in the country. This is equivalent to a case fatality rate of 1.94% for the Philippines. This is below the global case fatality rate of around 2.33%, based on data from the World Health Organization.

As in the tally for total cases, there are delays in reporting out the deaths and adding them to the national tally. The DOH had explained that the recent spikes in reported COVID-19 deaths were due to "a delay in the submission of validated mortality cases" from local government units to the department's epidemiology bureau.

For instance, out of the single-day record of 259 deaths reported on September 14, the DOH said 28 died in September, 110 in August, 97 in July, and the remaining 24 from April to June.

Looking at the deaths by date of death, the DOH pointed to a downward trend in the number of new COVID-19 deaths, from a peak around late March. However, deaths rose again in mid-June, and logged the highest one-day toll so far on August 11, at 74 fatalities. To date, it has since been on a downward trend.

As of December 2, only 8,374 of 8,436 reported deaths (or 99.27%) have dates of death and are labeled as "Died" in the DOH dataset. This means the chart for COVID-19 fatalities based on date of death is not yet the complete picture.

Below, compare the charts for deaths by date reported and by date of actual death.

Recoveries

As of December 2, there have been 399,005 recoveries out of 434,357 confirmed cases in the country. This means a case recovery rate of 91.86% for the Philippines.

The most recoveries reported in a single day was 40,397, on August 16. The DOH explained that this sudden spike in recoveries was due to their implementation of a "mass recovery" program, where mild and asymptomatic cases are tagged as recoveries based on discharging criteria by the World Health Organization and endorsed by Philippine medical societies.

See below the chart for recoveries by date reported.

Meanwhile, in the DOH dataset as of December 2, only 119,062 of 399,005 recoveries (or 29.84%) indicate a date of actual recovery and are tagged as "Recovered." The DOH attributed the missing dates of actual recovery to "the incomplete and inaccurate contact information placed in the Case Investigation Forms." (READ: How complete is DOH's coronavirus dataset?)

Compared to ASEAN, world
Case status over time

From March 9, when the country logged more than 10 total cases, the rate of active cases had hovered above 60%, until it sharply went down to 25% on July 30, when the DOH reported over 38,000 recoveries due to a "mass recovery" program. It then shot up again to as high as 53% on August 15, but has since dropped to below 20% around late September.

The rate for active cases went below 10% for the first time in late October.

As for the Philippines' case fatality rate, it hasn't gone above 10% since March 9. It has displayed a slow, downward trend since late April, reaching a low of 1.54% on August 25. However, it has been slightly inching upwards since then, but still below 2% so far.

The jagged lines for active cases and recoveries are due to the DOH's mass recovery program implemented every Sunday.

Positivity rate

As of December 1, the Philippines has a cumulative positivity rate – or the share of all tests since the beginning that come back positive – of around 8.9%

The lowest cumulative positivity rate so far is 6.86%, logged in mid-June. So far, this rate has been below 10% since October 11.

However, looking at the two-week moving average – a snapshot of recent test results – the positivity rate is already hovering just above 5%.

According to the World Health Organization's latest guidance issued in November, a two-week average positivity rate between 2% and 5% is among the criteria for an area to fall under the "Community transmission – level 2" category.

This means there is a "moderate incidence of locally acquired, widely dispersed cases detected in the past 14 days," and there is a "moderate risk of infection for the general population." A rate below 2% means there is a "low risk of infection for the general population."

Maintaining a positivity rate of 5% or below for at least two weeks indicates that an area "has sufficient testing capacity for the size of their outbreak and is testing enough of its population to make informed decisions about reopening," explained the John Hopkins University.

Testing output

The Philippines has tested over 5.49 million individuals as of December 1.

However, since logging a high of over 44,000 tests on September 11, the number of daily tests have slowed down again to below 40,000. (In the chart below, data for recent days may still be incomplete due to delays in the submission of test results by some testing laboratories.)

Case projections

At the end of June, the number of cases came close to reaching the 40,000-figure that Octa, a group of interdisciplinary researchers and experts, predicted on account of a still high reproduction number, which indicates the "transmission potential" of a disease. While the government declared this feat a "win," the total count eventually crossed 40,000 3 days later.

The same experts then projected that total cases may reach 60,000 by July 31. By mid-July, however, the country already hit that number. These experts then predicted 85,000 cases by the end of July. This threshold was breached on July 29.

The next projection by these experts is at least 150,000 cases by end-August. After this milestone was breached on August 14, the experts then estimated as much as 230,000 cases by August 31, which was nearly met, when only over 220,000 cases were logged.

By end-September, the Philippines may have between 330,000 to 375,000 cases, they said. On September 30, the country logged 311,694 total cases.

Octa then projected that by the end of 2020, the Philippines may reach a total of 470,000 to 500,000 confirmed cases.

– Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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