HEALTH authorities are seeking P67.62 billion in additional budget in the battle against a novel coronavirus pandemic, as infections neared 13,000.

The budget department has approved P45.72 of the total but the agency needs more, Health Undersecretary Gerardo V. Bayugo told congressmen at an online hearing on Tuesday.

He said DoH had realigned P2.28 billion from its budget for the control of other infectious diseases to the purchase of test kits and personal protective equipment, staff hiring and to augment its quick response fund against the coronavirus.

He added that they have hired about 3,000 more health workers and approved 6,000 more slots with a P165-million funding for their salaries.

Meanwhile, Ospital ng Makati chief of Emergency Medical Services Jeremy Cordero told lawmakers the government should create a “coordination response mechanism” for local governments.

He said patients have been “hospital-hopping” looking for vacancies, which could have been avoided if hospitals coordinated with each other.

The proposed mechanism would allow data to “trickle down” to the command centers of the local government, Mr. Cordero said.

The Health department reported 224 new infections yesterday, bringing the total to 12,942.

The death toll rose to 837 after six more patients died, it said in a bulletin. One hundred fourteen more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 2,843, it added.

Also yesterday, the presidential palace said the government had released more than P246 billion in efforts to combat the coronavirus disease 2019.

The government allotted much of the funds to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with P196.04 billion, according to a copy of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s eighth weekly report to Congress.

About P30.8 billion was alloted to cities and municipalities and P6.1 billion to provinces.

Mr. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic.

People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said. The President extended the so-called enhanced community quarantine twice for the island and thrice for the capital region where novel coronavirus infections are concentrated.

Metro Manila and key cities and regions were kept under a modified lockdown from May 16 to 30, while some businesses were allowed to reopen with a skeletal workforce. — Genshen L. Espedido and Gillian M. Cortez