By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

PHILIPPINE researchers are looking at the local transmission patterns of COVID-19 to help policymakers respond better to the pandemic that has killed at least 17 people and sickened 200 more locally.

“A study is now under way which will yield data on transmission dynamics, secondary infection rate and clinical attack rate of the disease among close contact and symptomatic proportion of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines,” the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) said in a statement on Thursday.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 15 more infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 217.

It also said another patient, a 48-year-old Filipino male from Cavite, had recovered from the virus, bringing the total of those who have gotten well to eight.

Patient No. 20 had traveled to Japan and was admitted on March 7. He was discharged after testing negative twice for the virus, DoH said.

Worldwide, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which the World Health Organization has called a pandemic, has infected about 220,000 people with almost 9,000 deaths, mostly in China.

DoST said samples from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City will be used in the study to help the Department of Health data improve “national efforts in case isolation, contact tracing and disease control and prevention.”

The project will be led by physician Mayan U. Lumandas from RITM, the agency said.

A web and mobile-based response tool is being amplified to give real-time updates on COVID-19 in the country.

The agency is also supporting research that tests the antiviral properties of lauric acid and its derivatives against coronavirus, it said.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 detection kit developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health would probably be distributed to healthcare facilities by end-March, it said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week locked down the entire island of Luzon to contain the virus, suspending work and public transportation and regulating food and health services.

The so-called enhanced community quarantine also required home quarantine for residents.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. this week said it was working on a COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech SE, a German company working on new kinds of immunotherapy treatments, targeting clinical testing to start by end-April.

Also yesterday, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said he was under self-quarantine after being in close contact with a health official who later tested positive for COVID-19.

He told radio DZBB he was not showing any symptoms and had been tested and was waiting for his results.

The Food and Drug Administration also released a list of four approved COVID-19 test kits for commercial use.

Nucleic acid detection kit for 2019 nCov is made in Shanghai, China and is distributed by S&S Enterprise, while Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV nucleic acid detection kit is produced in Beijing, China and distributed by Sahar International.

AllplexTM 2019-nCoV Assay is made in Seoul South Korea and distributed by Endure Medical, Inc. while SOLGEN DiaPlexQtm is made in Daejeon, South Korea and distributed by Wellness Pro, Inc.