The country’s confirmed COVID-19 cases surged to 380, with 150 new cases recorded Saturday—the highest jump in a single day—while the death toll increased to 25.
READ: PH virus cases, 230; deaths, 18
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire attributed the leap in the number of confirmed cases to the increased number of tests conducted by the government.
“Our capacity (to test) has been expanded to other laboratories,” she said.
Around 125,000 test kits from South Korea and China arrived over the weekend in the Philippines, which is now able to conduct as many as 1,000 tests for COVID-19 daily.
Vergeire said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) can conduct an average of 600 tests per day, while four subnational laboratories – Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center in Baguio City, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila City, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City – can do at least 50 tests daily.
The World Health Organization said the laboratory of the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health will “soon” be ready for testing as well.
Vergeire, however, said there is no need to conduct mass testing yet, although the government is ready to do so if the need arises.
“We are being challenged right now with our testing capacity and laboratory capacity,” she said, adding that the test would be administered only to the elderly and patients who have been exhibiting symptoms of the disease, including fever, headache and cough, among others.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque himself had to be tested for the virus. Duque, who is asthmatic and hypertensive, tested negative but has opted to go under a 14-day quarantine after a DOH director from its Central Office tested positive for the virus.
President Rodrido Duterte also tested negative for the virus, along with Cabinet members Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.
The DOH has already coverted two hospitals – Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center and a building at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital – for use by COVID-19 patients exclusively.
The move was in response to a plea from private hospitals, which called on the national government and the DOH to designate hospitals for patients infected with the new pathogen, saying the growing health crisis has overwhelmed health care centers.
“We are very scared. With depleting resources, private hospitals appeal for designated COVID-19 facilities. We are aware that there is a plan to do this; we are urgently appealing for the DoH to mobilize this plan, challenging as it may be, but which the private hospitals are willing and ready to facilitate,” they said.
Duque said the department is looking at the Lung Center of the Philippines for a similar setup but its executive director said this would be difficult to do since they have many cancer and tuberculosis patients.
Two more Filipinos abroad – one in Brunei and one in India – tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.
The DFA said the Filipino patient in Brunei is in a local health facility and is in stable condition, citing a report from the Ministry of Health of Brunei Darussalam.
The other Filipino patient arrived in India early March and was confined in a hospital in Mumbai after complaining of difficulty in breathing.
The Philippine embassies in the two countries vowed to extend assistance to the patients to ensure they are given maximum care and support.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said it completed to the construction of 110 evacuation centers nationwide can be used as health facilities for suspected victims of COVID-19 virus.
“Considering the 12-square-meter per patient latest safety measure of the DOH, the 110 evacuation centers converted into health facilities can accommodate an estimated number of 4,620 patients,” Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar said.
Villar had earlier directed a study of the possible conversion of evacuation centers to augment the capacity of hospitals and health care centers.
Vergeire confirmed 73 more tested positive for the new coronavirus, which brought to 380 the total number of cases.
She also said there are now 25 deaths with six more patients succumbing to the disease. Two more recovered, bringing the number of recoveries to 15.
On Sunday, Vergeire warned against using the antimalarial drug chloroquine to treat COVID-19 due to its side effects.
The Philippine Pharmacists Association, Inc. issued an advisory on Saturday saying pharmacists should not dispense chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as prophylaxis for COVID-19 without a doctor’s prescription.
The association cited the well-known adverse effects of antimalarial drugs such as abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.
READ: PH under state of calamity
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