Test kits better be used for severely ill people to identify potential other COVID-19 carriers - WHO
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that test kits, which are limited in the Philippines, could be better used by patients with severe symptoms.
In the "Laging Handa" press briefing, Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative in the Philippines, said coronavirus disease is transmitted largely by symptomatic people.
"The evidence that asymptomatic people are transmitting this disease is very weak. In our estimate, almost 90 percent of the disease is transmitted by symptomatic people and so, we need to focus expressly on those symptomatic people to maximize the benefit of the Enhanced Community Quarantine that is now being implemented," he said.
With the limited COVID-19 testing kits, asked if the courtesy of testing still has to be extended to government officials who are asymptomatic, the WHO official said, "Our recommendation is to use...prioritize...a scheme to test the severely ill with pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome and use the results of that testing to identify potentially infected other people through contact tracing to limit amplifying effect of those events."
"So this, as I explained, helps not only confirm infection in a patient who is severely ill or suffering from comorbidities but also helps through quickly identify other people who are infected and reduce the risk of transmission through identification of those amplifying events through rapid contract tracing. That is our recommendation at this point of time."
Some politicians were heavily criticized in social media platforms for undergoing COVID-19 testing despite being asymptomatic while many symptomatic patients were lining up in some government hospitals in the country.
Abeyasinghe lauded the government's declaration of ECQ in Luzon, including Metro Manila, to help slowdown the spread of the virus.
"We congratulate the government of the Philippines for the enhanced community quarantine that is importantly buying time to flatten the epidemic and reduce the pace of the outbreak and that gives time for the health department and the private sector hospitals to increase their preparedness and readiness," he said.
But he added that ECQ or the lockdown should be complemented with social distancing inside the homes and communities.
This is critically important because this will further slowdown the epidemic," he said.
The official also said that mask is required only for health workers due to global shortage of personal protective equipment.
"WHO has for many weeks now is advocating that face masks be reserved for frontline healthcare workers. Because we know from my experience in other countries that we need to protect our health workers. Because if health workers are falling sick, there will be no one to provide support and care for the sick people," he said.
He said that the do-it-yourself PPE kits, which are being used now by some Filipinos, are not 100 percent protective.
While these type of PPE kits offer some degree of protection, he said, "WHO does not encourage this but this is a stop-gap measure as we address the global shortage."
"WHO is supporting the government of the Philippines in trying to access personal protective equipment, at the same time we are also trying to rationalize the use of existing PPEs through better management of their use by healthcare workers."
Thirty-five have died from COVID-19 as the number of confirmed cases rose to 552, the health department said late Tuesday. Celerina Monte/DMS