Declining But Still High COVID-19 Transmission Means PH Needs Aggressive Testing

Let’s talk about testing.

Three million in total were conducted in the Philippines since the pandemic began. But is that enough?

From around 13,000 per day in June, testing doubled to 26,000 in July. This is good.

It rose more in August to 35,000 per day. In the first 11 days of September, it was at 37,000 per day.

While the number of tests has been rising (see chart below), it seems to have plateaued recently.

While the number of tests has been rising, it seems to have plateaued recently.

The government said its target was to test 8,000 per day by end of April (a goal met on May 10) and 30,000 per day by end of May (a goal met on July 22).

And thus far, no new target has been announced.

I know the positivity rate has declined recently but it is still above 10 percent—more than double the World Health Organization benchmark of 5 percent.

This could only mean that there are still infections and transmissions happening on the ground.

So, what is one way to lower the positivity rate?

Positivity rate has declined recently but it is still above 10 percent—more than double the World Health Organization benchmark of 5 percent. This could only mean that there are still infections and transmissions happening on the ground.

On August 27, testing peaked to nearly 42,000. So why can’t we do that every day? In fact, why can’t we do more?

We need to set a new target so that we have a metric for success. And we need to hit this—not just move goal posts.

A question: Will 60,000 by October be possible?

Philippines vs Neighbors

Furthermore, it’s misleading to compare our total tests with other countries. Again, with a positivity rate of more than 10 percent, it’s clear that there’s still local transmission in the Philippines.

For countries that have successfully flattened the curve, there is no need to test as aggressively.

Another thing: Contact tracing is key to flatten the curve.

Baguio City Mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong said that for one positive case, 37 close contacts must be traced. Philippines is still far from this ratio.

If things don’t improve, we’ll be left counting cases—a step behind the continued spread of the virus. With more tests, we’ll see cases rise in the near-term. But that’s okay. It’s how we’ll win this war.

Test. Trace. Isolate. Till we flatten the curve.

To quote New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: “More testing only uncovers more positives when there are positives to be found”

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the author’s Twitter account, @EdsonCGuido, and has been published with permission.

About the Author

Edson Guido is the head of ABS-CBN Data Analytics Team. He publishes daily COVID-19 updates on his Twitter account.

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