By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

THE Department of Health (DoH) on Friday reported yet again the biggest daily increase in novel coronavirus infections with 96 new cases, bringing the total to 803.

The death toll rose by nine to 54, while three more patients recovered, bringing the total to 31, according to a DoH bulletin.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire traced the increase to more tests being conducted by local laboratories.

The three who recovered were all males aged 25, 48, and 51 with no underlying medical conditions.

The ages of the nine patients who died ranged from 57 to 83 years old, all of whom had underlying medical conditions, DoH said.

Ms. Vergeire said 2,147 people have been tested for the COVID-19.

She said they expect the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to certify the sub-national laboratories of San Lazaro Hospital, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, and Southern Philippines Medical Center for Mindanao within the day.

They were initially given 5,000 test kits and they can conduct as many as 160 tests daily, she said.

She also said that more than 30 public and private hospitals have expressed a desire to become COVID-19 testing laboratories and were sent a self-assessment tool to determine their capacity.

The DoH personnel have visited some of these hospitals, including St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City and Taguig City, Makati Medical Center, Medical City, Western Visayas Medical Center, Bicol Public Health Laboratory and the Armed Forces Research Institute for Medical Sciences.

Also on Friday, the Department of Education (DepEd) said it was open to turning schools into facilities for COVID-19 patients, subject to conditions.

Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla told a separate news briefing DepEd chief Leonor Briones had issued guidelines in using schools as COVID-19 facilities.