COVID-19 deaths now at 477; two more detainees test positive

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THE Department of Health (DoH) reported on Friday that an additional 211 persons tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)y, bringing the total to 7,192. Fifteen patients have died, raising the death toll due to the disease to 477.

Meanwhile, 40 patients were able to recover, bringing the total of those who have gotten well to 762, it added.

DoH Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said during a virtual press conference on Friday that the country can now conduct 4,500 tests per day from the initial 300. The DoH earlier said that its goal is to conduct 8,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Ms. Vergeire said that the DoH will ensure that the country will be able to meet minimum health standards to avoid “wasting” the “achievements” obtained since the start of the lockdown. The minimum health standards include decreased vulnerability or increased resilience, decreased transmission, decreased contact, and decreased infectiousness.

The Health Undersecretary also reported that the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) was recently accredited to test for COVID-19, bringing the accredited number of testing laboratories in the country to 18.

Ms. Vergeire said that 26 provinces have not yet recorded any COVID-19 cases.

Mapapansin po natin na marami sa kanila ay geographically isolated dahil sila ay nasa isang isla o pulo (we note that many of them are geographically isolated because they are in islands or islets),” she said.

During the Malacañang press briefing on Friday, Ms. Vergeire said the country’s critical care utilization rate is nearing its full capacity, which pushed the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to extend the lockdown in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Makikita natin na yung sa use of intensive care units dito sa NCR, nandun na siya near nung maximum. Ibig-sabihin gamit na gamit na talaga. That’s why ang ating risk assessment dito sa atin sa NCR, base sa ating case doubling time at saka base dun sa ating critical care utilization rate, ay talagang nandun tayo sa red na part dahil dun pa lang, makikita natin yung capacity ay medyo nearing na baka ma-overwhelm tayo (We see that the use of intensive care units here in the NCR is near maximum. It means that they are fully utilized. That’s why our risk assessment here in the NCR, based on our case doubling time and on our critical care utilization rate, we are in the red zone because we can see that the capacity is nearing the point of our being overwhelmed),” she said.

To address this, Ms. Vergeire said that they are currently “arranging” how patients are admitted to each hospital in the country.

“We are trying to arrange… our processes whereby patients can have their pathways para hindi napupuno ang isang ospital. So inaayos po natin lahat ‘yan, hindi po tayo magpapatayo ng bagong ospital. Ang gagawin natin mag aayos tayo ng proseso, maglalagay tayo ng dedicated rooms, dedicated wards para sa ating COVID (patients). And of course, importante rin mag dededicate tayo para sa non-COVID (patients) (We are trying to arrange… our processes whereby patients can have their pathways so the hospitals are not filled. So we are arranging all of that, we will not build new hospitals. What we will do is fix the processes, we will have dedicated rooms, dedicated wards for our COVID patients. And, of course, it is important that we will dedicate ourselves to our non-COVID patients too),” she said.

Ms. Vergeire said that the DoH was able to hire 857 health workers through its emergency hiring program. They will be assigned to different hospitals in the NCR.

“With regard to their shifting, isa yan sa rekomendasyon sa atin nung mga Chinese experts na dumating dito nung isang linggo at sinasabi nila na para raw mas maging maingat tayo sa ating mga health care workers, we should be able to shorten their shifts para ma-lessen ang exposure, mas maraming pahinga ang ating mga health care workers (With regard to their shifts, a recommendation of the Chinese experts who were here last week was that we should take care of our health care workers by shortening their shifts so they will be less exposed and will rest more),” she said.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) reported Friday that two more persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in the Correctional Institute for Women tested positive for COVID-19.

“While BuCor medical staff are providing focused medical care to all suspect PDLs and to those found positive, we have received a report today that two more CIW PDL patients earlier tested for COVID-19 turned out positive,” it said in a Facebook post.

This brings the total number of infected CIW prisoners to 20. It was earlier reported that one CIW staff member was also reported COVID-19 positive.

“These two PDLs were part of the same batch that were tested at the same time but the results for the two was only released yesterday. They will join their colleagues at the NBP quarantine area (Site Harry) following strict transport protocols,” BuCor said.

No COVID-19 cases have been reporter at other prisons and penal farms.

“They are implementing strict security measures and Disease Prevention Measures while also preparing their teams in case of COVID-19 infection occurs in their respective areas,” BuCor said. — Genshen L. Espedido