Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire raised a new alarm Saturday on the coronavirus pandemic, saying COVID-19 could be airborne under “specific settings.”
During the Laging Handa public hearing, Vergeire cited the examples of hospitals, which have aerosol-producing equipment, and closed settings.
Her comments followed acknowledgment by the World Health Organization that “evidence (was) emerging” regarding the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, after a group of scientists urged the organization to revise its earlier recommendations about COVID-19.
Vergeire’s comment came as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country surpassed 54,000 with 1,387 new infections, of which 918 were “fresh” or newly validated and 469 were late, bringing the nationwide tally to 54,222.
The Department of Health also announced that the total recoveries rose to 14,037 with a record-high 807 new recoveries, while the death toll increased to 1,372 with 12 new fatalities.
Among the fresh cases, 261 are from the National Capital Region, 62 are from Region VII, and 595 are from other areas across the country.
Among the late cases, 178 are from the National Capital Region, 15 are from Region VII, 276 are from other areas across the country.
Vergeire, meanwhile, warned against selling and buying plasma for COVID-19, citing the risk of transmitting other diseases via blood.
“We discourage the selling of blood, we need to screen the patient first before they can give blood,” Vergeire said, adding buying blood was “very risky” as the recipient could easily contract other diseases if the donor’s blood was infected.
“There are diseases that can be transmitted through the blood that are for sale. These are transmissible infections through the blood,” she said.
Vergeire asked the public to get proper advice from official blood centers about convalescent plasma transfusion.
Discrepancy in Palace and Department of Finance reports on COVID-19 expenses prompted a legislator on Saturday to seek an accounting of government Bayanihan Act spending as well as the foreign funds that the government acquired through loans and grants.
Party-list Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo of ACT-CIS raised the call as Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the government had so far secured $5.8 billion for anti-COVID-19 activities while the Department of Finance said $7.76 billion had come in from abroad.
“I ask the Commission on Audit to urgently conduct a special audit of all the Bayanihan Act spending and of COVID-19 foreign loans, grants, and bonds. We want to be sure that all these funds were, are, and will be judiciously and properly spent for intended purposes,” Tulfo, member for the majority bloc, said in a statement.
Quoting newspaper reports, Tulfo said the Finance department secured $7.76 billion in foreign funds and has disbursed $5.11 billion.
Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista said Saturday 80 percent of the target cash aid beneficiaries for the second tranche of the Social Amelioration Program would get their payout by the end of July.
In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Bautista said the money was already in the hands of the DSWD. But the process of double-checking the list of qualified beneficiaries had taken a lot of time.
He said the DSWD started the payout in some areas of the National Capital Region through online payment.
Manila City Mayor Francisco ‘Isko ‘ Domagoso on Saturday announced the local government had purchased three COVID-19 testing machines capable of testing 16,800 residents a week.
Domagoso said doctors, nurses and all other healthcare workers would be the first ones to be tested by the serology testing machines from Abbott.
According to Abbott, the testing machines have an accuracy rate of 99.6-percent. However, confirmatory swab tests are still required under public health protocols.
Similar to rapid test kits, the Abbott serology testing machines use blood as samples to test residents for COVID-19.
The Manila City government is the first local government unit to procure these serology testing machines, Domagoso said.