THE Department of Health (DoH) reported that an additional 385 persons tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) positive cases on Friday, bringing the total to 3,018. Twenty-nine patients died, raising the total number of deaths due to the disease to 136.

One patient recovered, bringing the total of those who have gotten well to 52, it added.

The sudden spike in the number of deaths is attributed to the late reporting of previous deaths, special assistant of the Health Secretary Beverly Lorraine C. Ho said.

In the Laging Handa briefing on Friday, DoH Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said that symptomatic persons will still be prioritized in the COVID-19 mass testing later this month.

Ang mass testing po ay hindi lahat ng tao sa ating bansa. Ito po ay magkakaroon din ng protocol kung saan, kung sakali po ay itutuloy nga ito, yung may mga simtomas ang uunahin natin at sila po yung i-te-test at kung sakaling mag-positibo, ilalagay natin sa community quarantine facilities,” she said. (The mass testing will not cover all the people in the country. It will follow a protocol which, if it does push through, those with symptoms will be prioritized for testing, and if they are positive, they will be placed in community quarantine facilities.)

Ms. Ho said during the virtual press conference on Friday that mild cases of COVID-19 do not need to be admitted to hospitals but they will be put in quarantine centers.

“Mild cases which are not eligible for admission into hospitals — yung mga (the) non-elderly, mga no comorbidities, mga non-pregnant cases, di po sila maadmit (will not be admitted). The quarantine centers are in place because we understand that it is not easy for many households to isolate themselves from one family member due to space limitations,” she said.

COVID-19 referral hospitals are expected to receive the severe cases which will require critical care, while non COVID-19 referral hospitals are expected to receive patients with mild cases and patients with non COVID-19-related illnesses.

The DoH is confident that testing can reach 3,000 people per day by April 14 and 8,000 tests by the end of the month due to the increase in testing capacity, Ms. Ho said.

“Currently we have the RITM as our national reference laboratory and we have seven-sub national laboratories at full-scale implementation. With 40 other laboratories in the pipeline, we can expect our daily testing capacity to increase significantly within the next couple of weeks as more laboratories will be certified,” she said.

Ms. Ho added that the test kits developed by the University of the Philippines — National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) are also expected to get marketing authorization as soon as they submit their results to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Meanwhile, Ms. Ho said that there are no limits on the number of volunteers for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Solidarity Trial, a global effort which seeks to research possible treatments against COVID-19.

“So nag-submit na po ang ating mga eksperto ng kanilang (so out experts have submitted their) proposal. Initially we have 20 hospitals who are participating. Ang ibig sabihin po nito, kung may COVID-19 patients sila, ang kanilang doktor ay maari silang i-enroll sa trial na ito (What this means is if the hospitals have COVID-19 patients, their doctors can enrol them in the trial),” she said adding that patients need to be fully briefed before joining the test. — Genshen L. Espedido