96 more virus cases in PH; death toll at 54
The Department of Health (DOH) reported that 96 more patients were confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), bringing the nationwide total to 803, as of 4 p.m. Friday, the second highest in Southeast Asia next to Malaysia.
But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire clarified that the data on new cases could not yet be used to determine whether the number is increasing, flattening or decreasing because the DOH had also increased the number of diagnostic tests being conducted in more testing centers.
Don’t be surprised
Aside from the increased number of test kits, Vergeire said the DOH had also stepped up the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) to fill a gap that has been blamed for the deaths of health workers, including physicians.
“Let us not be surprised over the continued rise in the number of COVID-19 positive cases. This is because more people are being tested now since we expanded our laboratory capacity and have sufficient test kits,” Vergeire said.
Apart from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), there are now five subnational laboratories that can test for COVID-19. These are San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines in Metro Manila, Baguio General Hospital in Northern Luzon, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in the Visayas and the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Mindanao.
Each of the five laboratories, which can do 80 to 160 tests daily, have been provided 5,000 test kits. The RITM, which has a capacity of 600 tests a day, also received 10,000 new kits from a private donor.
“[But] just because we said it’s an artificial rise, [it] doesn’t mean that the cases aren’t going up. It may be rising but it’s coinciding with the cases we are confirming as our laboratory testing capacity becomes stable,” she said, adding that the public should not be complacent and disregard the stringent measures put in place by the government.
791 test negative
To date, Vergeire said there are already 2,147 persons who have been tested for the coronavirus. There are 791 persons who tested negative. It is unclear if the remaining 553 persons in the total are still awaiting for their results.
According to the Coronavirus Resource Center Johns Hopkins University, the Philippines has the second most number of cases in Southeast Asia, next to Malaysia’s 2,031, but Malaysia is also 23rd in the world while the Philippines is 40th. Moreover, there is no established correlation between geographical location and rate of infection in the current coronavirus pandemic.
Vergeire said the new cases in the Philippines included another DOH official who tested positive on Friday. The official, whom she did not name, has mild symptoms but is in a stable condition.
She said three more patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the current total to 31. They are Patients 4, 66 and 42. Both Patients 4 and 42 went to Japan recently, while Patient 66 was in close contact with another positive case.
The death toll, however, climbed to 54 as nine more patients succumbed to the disease.
They are: Patient 366, a 63-year-old man from Muntinlupa City; Patient 637, a 75-year-old man from Quezon City; Patient 571, a 72-year-old woman from Muntinlupa City; Patient 178, a 74-year-old man from Manila; Patient 389, a 71-year-old woman from Quezon City; Patient 462, an 83-year-old woman from Cavite; Patient 437, a 57-year-old man from Manila; Patient 401, a 62-year-old man from Manila; and Patient 306, a 67-year-old woman from Quezon City.
Only Patients 366, 571, 178 and 306 knew they were positive for COVID-19 before they died. The results of the other patients came back positive after their deaths.
All of them had preexisting ailments like hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease.
PGH ready; QI next
Vergeire said that the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is now ready to take in positive patients with severe to critical conditions as its 130-bed COVID-19 wing became fully operational on Friday. The two other COVID-19 referral facilities, the Lung Center of the Philippines and Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, formerly Tala Leprosarium, are expected to become operational in the coming days.
Vergeire assured the 400 patients currently confined in PGH that their health would not be compromised because the COVID-19 wing has its own emergency room and entryway.
As early as next week, the health official said the community quarantine facility at Quezon Institute (QI) will also become operational for positive patients who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and were referred to the center by other hospitals.
She, however, did not disclose how many beds have been allocated for the infected patients.
The Philippine Red Cross is also expected to put up tents at the institute’s grounds where persons under investigation who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms will be monitored.
As for the supply of PPE and other medical supplies, Vergeire said they have already delivered to the various requesting hospitals another 200,000 disposable surgical masks, 4,596 bottles of ethyl alcohol and more than 3,500 sachets of liquid soap donated by the private sector.
Another 450,000 face masks donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is expected to arrive in the coming days.
The DOH said that hospitals in need of PPE should send a request letter addressed to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III or Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje and signed by the medical director. The letter is to be sent via email [email protected] and [email protected]
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