The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday denied rumors that an elderly coronavirus patient has become the second person to die of the disease in the Philippines after a flurry of new cases brought the total number of patients in the country to 33.
DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters at the department’s headquarters in Sta. Cruz, Manila that the oldest infected patients — case PH6, a 62-year-old male, and case PH9, an 86-year-old male — are both alive and in what she characterized as “guarded condition.”
“This means because of co-morbidities or other illnesses on top of contracting COVID-19, that they are in somewhat critical condition as of now, and they are being monitored closely in our referral hospitals,” Vergeire said in English and Filipino. She added that the rest of the country’s patients are in stable condition.
Of the 33 total cases in the Philippines, 28 are Filipino and the rest are foreign nationals: three Chinese, one Taiwanese, and one American. Twenty-one are men, and 12 are women. The youngest, PH15, is a 24-year-old Filipino man, and the oldest, PH9, is an 86-year-old American man.
Vergeire speculated that the reason the majority of the cases are in Metro Manila is because of the presence of several major ports of entry in the area, which may have led to the entry of virus carriers. But she maintained that testing is still ongoing in several regions across the country.
Vergeire reminded the public to continue practicing “proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and social distancing” — or maintaining a one-meter distance from anyone coughing or sneezing.
“We also advise everyone from visiting public places and/or attending mass gatherings at this critical time. Only with your cooperation and support can we win the fight against COVID-19,” she added.
Vergeire also addressed the growing concern surrounding the limited supply of testing kits, of which there are only around 2,000 for the country’s 104 million residents. Despite the well publicized concerns, she insisted that the number of kits is “adequate” based on the current number of cases and the number of requests for testing.
Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration Director-General Eric Domingo said in an interview with radio station DZMM this morning that new testing kits developed by the University of the Philippines’ scientists will be ready to use in a week. Domingo added that they have yet to get approval from the World Health Organization (WHO), a process that could take three months.
“Right now, the kits are ready. And when the developers showed us [the kits’] accuracy, it came out very accurate. So what we’re asking is even without the validation of WHO, we can use it. But [the testing] will be done alongside confirmatory genetic sequencing. So if someone tests positive on the kit, their genetic sequence will also be checked for a complete characterization of the virus,” Domingo said.
According to the Department of Science and Technology, which funded the research, the local testing kit will cost PHP1,320 (US$26) — just one-sixth of the cost of foreign-made kits, which go for PHP8,500 (US$168).