Coronavirus cases near 24,000 as local death toll rises steadily

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THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported 740 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 23,732.

The death toll rose to 1,027 after 10 more patients died, while 159 more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 4,895, it said in a bulletin.

Of the new cases, 452 results were reported in the past three days, while 288 were reported late.

DoH said there were 17,239 active cases, 816 of whom did not show symptoms, 16,340 were mild, 64 were severe and 19 were critical. There were now 56 laboratories licensed to test coronavirus samples.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said zoning guidelines for specimens to be processed by laboratories would help address the backlog.

Under the rules, a laboratory will handle and process specimens from a specific area, she told an online news briefing.

Meanwhile, the palace said infections should ease somehow before the lockdown in Manila, the capital and nearby cities could be eased further, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

“We are still looking for some kind of data that would indicate that Metro Manila will not spark a second wave,” he said. “We cannot afford a second wave.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked the main Philippine island of Luzon in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.

He extended the lockdown on the island twice and thrice for Metro Manila, where COVID-19 infections are mostly concentrated. The lockdown in the capital region has since been relaxed from an enhanced to a general community quarantine. Some businesses have been allowed to reopen with minimal workforce.

Metro Manila and Cebu were placed under a general community quarantine on June 1 along with Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Pangasinan, Albay, Mandaue City, Zamboanga City and Davao City.

Others were put under a more relaxed modified general community quarantine.

Mr. Roque separately told state broadcaster PTV-4 the government was having a hard time to bring down the number of infections, unlike New Zealand.

The South Pacific nation, with a population of five million lifted all domestic coronavirus restrictions on Monday after its final coronavirus disease 2019 patient was cleared.

The country has had 1,154 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said strict border controls would remain in place but restrictions such as social distancing limits on public gatherings were no longer needed, AFP reported.

Mr. Roque said the Philippines, which has more than 100 million citizens, would have a hard time eliminating the virus.

“We are already 40 million in Metro Manila alone and we are cramped,” he said. New Zealand, on ther hand, is just the size of Luzon, he added.

Mr. Roque said an inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet officials had approved a resolution allowing local governments to impose lockdowns in smaller subdivisions where infections have been rising.

The task force is expected to meet this week to discuss a decision on the metro lockdown. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez