Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. and an undersecretary at the Department of Health (DOH) tested positive for COVID-19, as the number of confirmed cases shot up to 803 with 92 new cases.
With nine new deaths reported, the number of fatalities from COVID-19 rose to 54.
The country also reported its youngest COVID-19 case, a 1-year-and-nine-months baby.
Some 31 people have recovered from the disease and 791 have tested negative, the DOH said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed that a senior health official was infected and showed mild symptoms, but he did not identify the patient.
Duque had earlier said a DOH director from its Central Office in Muntinlupa City also tested positive for the virus.
Having been exposed to that official, Duque, 63, also went on home quarantine and had himself tested. His results came out negative.
Oriental Mindoro Governor Bonz Dolor, meanwhile, said the baby is the first positive COVID-19 patient in Calapan City.
He said the baby was in Metro Manila from March 5-12. The baby was brought by grandparents, both of whom tested negative, to Alabang City to be with the mother.
The governor also said contact tracing has already been done to find persons who had contact with the baby.
Philippine Medical Association (PMA) president Dr. Jose Santiago Jr., said another doctor died from the virus, which brought to 10 the number of doctors who died from COVID-19.
He said many health care workers, including doctors and nurses, have yet to be tested.
“We are not yet certain if there are other health care workers or doctors who are positive. We do not know, we have not yet done testing,” he said.
Santiago said the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel should be addressed.
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he is extending his observance of self-quarantine to 21 days.
READ: Senator adds to 142 virus infections
“I am now on my 16th day of isolation but I have decided to extend it to 21 days just to be absolutely sure that I no longer have any symptoms,” said Zubiri, the first senator to test positive for COVID-19.
The senator said he is now in coordination with private hospitals for his next COVID-19 tests.
“Under the DOH mandated protocols for recovered patients, I’m supposed to be tested twice with negative results for me to be considered a recovered patient,” Zubiri said.
“I can’t emphasize enough that we must all stay home and quarantine our selves from this deadly virus. The lives of our people and most especially of our front liners depend on it,” Zubiri said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said mass testing was critical.
“When we say mass testing, we do not refer to all the 100-plus million Filipinos. It’s only the most vulnerable: those over 60 years old, which constitutes not even 10 percent of the entire population; those who are exposed; and those with symptoms,” he said.
He pointed out the testing of all symptomatics and those who are high-risk is ideal.
“This is where the rapid test kits come in. The rapid test kit will identify the positives early so that they can be isolated to prevent infection spread,” Lacson said.
He also criticized the DOH’s unwillingness to support mass testing using rapid test kits.
“If the DOH does not change its way of handling the crisis, we may be overrun by COVID19 faster than we can imagine,” Lacson warned.
The AFP chief tested positive for COVID-19 14 days after having a close contact with a senior military officer who was infected by the virus.
Sources said that Santos was in a stable condition and physically fit, manifesting no symptoms of the disease.
On March 13, Santos promoted the senior military officer, who was later found to be COVID-19-positive and treated at V. Luna Medical Center. The officer had just come from foreign travel just before his promotion.
Santos is currently at his quarters inside Camp Aguinaldo under strict quarantine until April 10.
A statement said he would be closely monitored by military physicians from V. Luna Medical Center.
“He is well and in good health condition. He will be in his military quarters where he will continue the discharge of his duties and responsibilities,” said the statement.
Those who have come in contact with Santos have been advised to go on self-quarantine.
Those who had similar contact with him from March 9 to March 12, but are symptomatic should seek medical advice.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he will be on self-quarantine beginning on Friday, after being informed of Santos’s positive test result.
Lorenzana said he had close contact with Santos on at least two recent occasions – one during a turnover of medical supplies in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City; and one at AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City and Heroes’ Hall in Malacañang.
These events took place over the weekend and on Monday, respectively.
Lorenzana said he has yet to experience any COVID-19 symptoms.
“I have no symptoms but protocol says I have to self-quarantine for 14 days,” he added.
While he is on quarantine, AFP vice chief-of-staff, Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr. will oversee the daily operational activities, while AFP deputy chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria will attend to administrative matters.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she too would undergo self-quarantine after she had come in close contact with the AFP chief in a meeting on March 20.
“Since I do not show any signs nor symptoms, I will not be having myself tested in order to save the limited supply of testing kits to people who truly need it. By staying at home, I will not put anyone I come in contact with at risk. The safety of those around me is my priority,” she said.
Romulo-Puyat said she would continue working while on self-quarantine as the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) staff members have been performing their jobs remotely since the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon began.
In other developments:
* Rep. Henry Villarica tested positive for COVID-19, House of Representatives’ Secretary General Jose Luis Montales disclosed Thursday night. Villarica is the second member of the chamber to be infected with the virus after ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap tested positive Wednesday. Montales said Villarica last reported for work at the House on March 4. He was admitted to hospital on march 12 with pneumonia and was in stable condition.
* One of the pillars of Filipino fashion, Ito Curata, 60, died of pneumonia on March 26 due to complications arising from COVID-19. The designer, according to a report by Lifestyle Asia, was confined for a week in ICU of the Asian Hospital before he succumbed to the illness. He was with his partner, Bob Miller who, as of this writing, is still being treated for pneumonia.
* Quezon City reported that the number of confirmed cases there has gone up to 97 as of Thursday 7 p.m. In its official Viber account, the city government reported 10 additional COVID-19 cases with one death. The total number of deaths is now at 14. Meanwhile, assistant city administrator for operations Alberto Kimpo said they have tapped tricycle drivers to distribute food packs in a bid to provide them with an alternative source of livelihood. With Maricel V. Cruz, Rio N. ArajaREAD: Another senator tested positive; cases reach 707READ: PH cases: 638, deaths: 38; provincial doctor new casualtyREAD: Local Roundup: P32-B budget sought to avoid food lack
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