Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, anxious over possible coronavirus infections in churches in predominantly Christian Philippines, suggested more Mass services to lessen crowds and social interaction.
Latest figures showed more than 80,000 patients have been infected globally, with the death toll climbing up to near 3,000.
The World Health Organization has called it a global health emergency but has declined to use the label “pandemic,” a term used when a disease takes hold in multiple regions and spreads rampantly within communities.
But the dramatic spread in South Korea, Iran, and Italy has stoked fears that COVID-19 could reach pandemic status.
READ: Ash Wednesday spooked by coronavirus
Duque also exhorted those with cough and fever, not to go to Mass, remain at home and wear a face mask.
In this way, he said they could not infect their family. “As much as possible, don’t interact with other people.”
As the nation observed Ash Wednesday, Duque called on Filipinos to pray at home after a spike in cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in South Korea was linked to church services.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines earlier told clergymen to sprinkle dry ashes on the head instead of applying wet ashes on a person’s forehead to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation of 106 million, has three confirmed cases of the new strain of virus, all of which were foreigners from Wuhan, China. It has yet to record local transmission of the virus.
Meanwhile, the DOH said three more patients under investigation (PUIs) for the COVID-19 were now admitted to hospitals nationwide.
The DOH’s PUI tracker showed the number of admitted patients monitored for the deadly virus increased from 98 to 101, as of noon Wednesday.
The record also showed 501 PUIs were discharged from hospitals after they tested negative for the virus which makes the total number of patients checked at 614.
The breakdown of persons observed for the deadly virus per region: Metro Manila – 86 admitted, 116 discharged, 2 confirmed cases, 1 mortality.
Calabarzon – 4 admitted, 75 discharged
Central Visayas – 3 admitted, 58 discharged, 1 confirmed case
Central Luzon – 2 admitted, 60 discharged
Western Visayas – 0 admitted, 38 discharged
Cagayan Valley – 1 admitted, 35 discharged
Cordillera Administrative Region – 2 admitted, 26 discharged
Davao Region – 0 admitted, 23 discharged
Eastern Visayas – 0 admitted, 18 discharged
Northern Mindanao – 1 admitted, 16 discharged
Mimaropa – 0 admitted, 15 discharged
Bicol Region – 0 admitted, 13 discharged
Ilocos Region – 1 admitted, 11 discharged
Soccsksargen – 1 admitted, 2 discharged
Caraga – 0 admitted, 3 discharged
BARMM – 0 admitted, 1 discharged
The number of confirmed COVID-19 globally increased from 77,794 to more than 80,000 cases.
Of the total, 77,658 cases are from mainland China, the hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
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