By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter
CORONAVIRUS infections in the Philippines have not reached their peak, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Thursday, as 276 new cases were added to bring the total to 8,488.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said new cases have been averaging between 100 and 200 daily, which is far from a plateau, even as authorities expand COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) tests.
“It’s quite risky for us to declare now that we really are plateauing and that we really are reaching that peak,” she told an online news briefing. “We are not there yet.”
Ten more patients died, raising the death toll to 568, DoH said in a bulletin yesterday. Twenty more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 1,043, it added.
Ms. Vergeire said expanded nationwide testing was not limited to health workers and people considered to be vulnerable and with severe conditions, but also covers those with mild symptoms as long as resources were available. She added that DoH needs more data to predict a trend.
Ms. Vergeire on Wednesday said the testing capacity of all laboratories is between 2,895 and 6,420 tests daily.
The capacity will increase by 3,000 once the machines and other testing equipment are set up at the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga province.
DoH said 89,021 tests have been conducted — 78,730 with negative and 10,139 with positive results.
The number of positive tests is higher than the confirmed cases because the test must still be validated and processed, Ms. Vergeire said.
Ms. Vergeire said at separate news briefing yesterday afternoon that 1,619 health workers — 557 physicians, 604 nurses, 99 nursing assistants, 63 medical technologists, 31 radiologic technologists, 17 respiratory therapists, 18 midwives, 13 pharmacists and 217 workers — had been infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Thirty-three of them have died, 250 have recovered, she added.
Ms. Vergeire said they were waiting for Japan to announce whether the Philippines will be included in the first batch of countries that will receive the drug Avigan, used for influenza, to treat COVID-19.
Japan earlier said it would send Avigan to 38 countries including the Philippines after conducting clinical trials with other countries.
Philippine General Hospital in Manila was studying the protocols so the clinical trials could be launched locally, Ms. Vergeire said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Vegeire said DoH in coordination with the Department of Justice, World Health Organization and International Committee of the Red Cross, had investigated and assessed coronavirus cases in local jails and prisons.
The Health department also coordinated with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to conduct targeted testing for inmates.
BuCor said there were 50 cases at the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) and the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City, while other prison and penal farms in the country were still COVID-19-free.
Three of them have died, two from the female prison and the first and only confirmed case of the national penitentiary.
Nine inmates and nine staff members at the Quezon City Jail near the capital, and more than 210 at the Cebu City Jail have also been infected, adding to worries about contagion risks in the country’s jails.
The novel coronavirus has sickened about 3.2 million and killed more than 228,000 people worldwide, according to the Worldometer website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization. More than one million people have recovered, it said.