HEALTH AUTHORITIES on Sunday warned the public against buying and selling convalescent plasma — antibody-rich products collected from eligible donors who have recovered from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) — because these are “illegal, reckless and dangerous.”

The Philippine Blood Center and Philippine Red Cross-Port Area are the only certified non-hospital collection facilities, while the Philippine General Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center are the only hospitals allowed to collect plasma for treatment, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a statement.

“Trading blood and other blood products, including those from recovered COVID-19 patients, is not only illegal but highly dangerous,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in the statement.

“Convalescent plasma should not be for sale and should be voluntarily donated for COVID-19 patients in need,” he added.

The statement came after families of critically ill coronavirus patients reportedly bought plasma from recovered patients, hospital staff and fixers.

DoH reported 3,109 new infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 129,913.

The death toll rose to 2,270 after 61 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 654 to 67,673, it said in a bulletin.

DoH said there were 59,970 active cases, 91% of which were mild, 7.5% did not show symptoms, and less than 1% each were severe and critical.

Of the new cases, 1,700 came from Metro Manila, 169 from Laguna province, 114 from Cebu, 98 from Rizal and 93 from Cavite. More than 1.6 million people have been tested for the coronavirus, DoH said.

Meanwhile, DoH said buying and selling plasma could pose health risks to patients who may contract “transfusion-transmissible infections such as HIV, hepatitis and malaria,” the agency said, citing studies.

Blood plasma donation should be done voluntarily and go through an official process to ensure the safety of recipients and donors, it added.

DoH also called on hospital chiefs to ensure their staff are not involved in the illegal practice, and for local governments to investigate the illegal trade outside authorized facilities.

“Likewise, DoH is appealing to relatives of patients to stop dealing with fixers operating inside and outside the hospital,” it said.

Under the law, blood products should only be collected from donors. Paid blood donation is illegal and noncompliant facilities face penalties.

Plasma of a coronavirus survivor’s blood is infused to severe patients, giving them antibodies to reduce their viral load.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte put Metro Manila, Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal back under a strict lockdown until Aug. 18 after a fresh surge in COVID-19 infections. He heeded the call of the medical community, which said the country could lose the battle against the pandemic.

A University of the Philippines professor had warned that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country could reach 150,000 by the end of this month if certain steps aren’t taken to contain the steep rise in infections, particularly in Metro Manila. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas