Philippine COVID-19 infections top 34,000

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Although there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, more research is needed. Shown here is a 3D-printed coronavirus model. -- REUTERS

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,006 new coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total to 34,037.

The death toll rose to 1,224 after 12 more patients died, while recoveries rose by 274 to 9,182, it said in a bulletin.

Of the new cases, 788 were reported in the past three days, while 218 were reported late, the agency said.

DoH Director Beverly Lorraine Ho traced the surge to increased testing capacity. Daily testing capacity has reached 16,000 this month from 8,000 in May, she told an online news briefing.

Ms. Ho said Cebu had an infection rate 32.8% compared with 7.2% in Metro Manila and 6.8% nationwide.

The cities of Cebu and Ormoc, and the provinces of Leyte and Samar were considered COVID-19 hotspots due to rising infections, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said on Wednesday.

Ms. Ho asked the public to keep wearing masks because they cut the chances of infection by 85%, and observe physical distancing, which cuts the likelihood of an infection by 80%.

Also on Friday, the presidential palace said restaurants and cafes including those inside hotels would be allowed to increase their capacity under a relaxed lockdown in Manila and nearby cities.

They would be allowed to increase operating hours and serve more clients, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque, Jr. said at a separate briefing.

An inter-agency task force also recommended that visits to memorial parks be allowed as long as groups don’t exceed 10 members each.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte had yet to approve the endorsement, he said.

Meanwhile, the Senate is open to holding a special session to pass another law giving President Rodrigo R. Duterte special powers in dealing with a coronavirus pandemic.

The Finance department should inform both houses of Congress about the specifics of the measure and save time, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told reporters on Friday.

The Senate on June 3 approved on second reading a bill that sought to extend the law that expired on June 24. The measure allowed the President to realign the budget for anti-coronavirus measures, among other things.

Senators failed to approve the bill on third reading before it adjourned on June 5 in the absence of a notice from the presidential palace certifying it as urgent. — Charmaine A. Tadalan