In the August 24 episode of the Survivors Speak Virtual Presser Series, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 16,459 recoveries following the implementation of the time-based recovery strategy of OPLAN RECOVERY, bringing the national total to 131,367.

The time-based and symptom-based recovery strategies are part of OPLAN RECOVERY, an initiative that the DOH activated to monitor the status of confirmed COVID-19 deaths and recoveries. It tags a patient as recovered when certain conditions are met even without repeat RT-PCR testing; the tagging procedure is recommended by the Philippine College of Physicians, and the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

“Dahil po sa prosesong ito, mas nakakasiguro tayo na ang lahat ng mga datos na aming inilalabas ay tama. Ito rin po ang magpapatunay na malaki ang chance na ang bawat COVID-19 patient na maka-recover ay makabalik sa dati nilang pamumuhay—hindi lamang para sa kanilang pamilya kundi pati na rin sa komunidad na kanilang kinabibilangan,” Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said.

She also emphasized that the process of tagging time-based recoveries only applies to mild and asymptomatic confirmed cases but does not apply for severe and critical cases, nor for immunocompromised patients.

“Patuloy pa rin po namin pinaalalahanan ang publiko na napaka-importante na mag-self isolate na agad kung makakaranas ng mga sintomas tulad ng trangkaso bago pa man magpa-test,” she added. “Lagi rin po natin tatandaan na ang COVID-19 ay hindi isang death sentence bagkus ang stigma na kaugnay dito ang mas nakakabahala.”

Undersecretary Vergeire also highlighted the importance of following healthy coping mechanisms while in isolation. She also clarified that there is no need to get tested after carefully observing the 14-day isolation period and after being assessed as recovered by a physician.

In the said presser, the Health Undersecretary was able to interview two frontliners who contracted the virus while in the line of duty, and then recovered: Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary for Communication and Commuters Affair Goddess Hope Libiran; and Chairperson of the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) Build Build Committee Anna Mae Lamentillo.

Both officials were always mobile, visiting offices, transport systems, and even hospitals in the campaign to curb Covid-19. They were always careful to wear the required face masks and face shields, observed social distancing, and did not stay long in crowded places. However, in both cases, they knew that they had been exposed to a COVID-positive person for some time that prompted them both to take the COVID tests. They informed their families and colleagues, and chose to be proactive in determining their health status, despite the fact that they didn’t show any symptoms.

In DOH’s weekly Survivors Speak Series, which airs every Sunday, both ladies acknowledged their shock when they were told that they tested positive. They immediately went into self-quarantine and, after 14 days, were pronounced recovered and could go back to their normal lives, including their public service work.

Chairwoman Lamentillo admitted that feeling anxious after a positive diagnosis is normal. At the same time, she cautioned about allowing oneself to be drowned in those feelings, especially during the critical 14-day isolation period. “The fear pushes people to the wall,” she forewarned, “so importante talaga na tinetext at tinatawagan ka ng mga mahal mo sa buhay habang naka-isolate ka. At the same time, you also have the responsibility to inform everyone who you interacted with, because you could have exposed them to the virus. Contact tracing is vital.”

Asec Libiran shared the most important “life-changing” lesson from her experience: facing her own mortality re-energized her passion to continue serving the people: I became more empathic na huwag magpapa-apekto sa sinasabi ng iba dahil hindi death sentence ang pagakakaron ng Covid-19,”she stressed. “Hindi rin ako na-discourage na tumigil sa pagsisilbi sa bayan kasi ang naisip ko, kung matatakot ako, sino na lang tutulong sa mga taong mas higit na nangangailangan ngayong panahon ng pandemya.”

Usec Vergeire also reminded the public to remain vigilant and regularly follow the minimum health standards. She also added that the BIDA Solusyon campaign of the Department is still ongoing to increase public awareness for the campaign. BIDA stands for B – Bawal walang mask; I – I-sanitize ang mga kamay, iwas hawak sa mga bagay; D – Dumistansya ng isang metro; at A – Alamin ang totoong impormasyon.

“Sa mga simpleng alituntunin na ito, mas matutulungan natin ang ating mga frontliner tulad nina Asec Libiran at Chairwoman Lamentillo na hindi iniinda ang mga panganib dulot ng virus na ito, magampanan lamang ang kanilang mga tungkulin para sa bayan.”