The Philippines passed 22,000 cases of the coronavirus on Monday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 579 more infections, while the death toll climbed to 1,011 with eight more fatalities.
This developed as the Duterte administration will revise virus quarantine guidelines on June 16, which will determine how much of the economy will be opened up, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Monday.
With 331 “fresh” or newly validated COVID-19 cases and 248 reported late cases, it brought the country's total to 22,474. Meanwhile, total recoveries also rose to 4,637 after 107 more patients recovered from the respiratory disease.
The restrictions were last eased on June 1, when Metro Manila was placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) after 11 weeks on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
The quarantine classifications at the start of the month will expire on June 15.
Metro Manila will need a "closer" examination if the prevailing GCQ can be downgraded given that it is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Roque said.
Among the fresh cases, 114 are from Metro Manila, 156 are from Region VII, one is a repatriate, and the remaining 60 are spread out across the country.
Among the late cases, 106 are from Metro Manila, five are from Region VII, 31 are repatriates, and 106 other patients came from various areas nationwide.
Among active cases, 16,362 are undergoing treatment or quarantine —15,627 of which are mild, 660 are asymptomatic, while 56 are severe and 19 are in critical condition.
As of June 7, the Philippines has 41 certified polymerase chain reaction facilities and 13 GeneXpert laboratories that have tested a total of 395,221 individuals.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the DOH’s testing protocol has been revised to include high-risk asymptomatic individuals.
Palace eyes special session
Malacañang wants to call for a special session of Congress after the legislature adjourned last week without passing measures that would boost the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea is studying the possibility of a special session, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Monday.
"What's important is to have a stimulus bill that is supported by both houses of Congress," Roque said.
Lawmakers had failed to pass a successor to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which granted President Rodrigo Duterte additional emergency powers to respond to the crisis. They will reconvene on July 27.
The Palace “sees no urgency" yet in terms of a fresh law to succeed the Bayanihan Act, as it stood by its position that the measure expires on June 25, Roque noted.
COVID-19 testing expanded
The Department of Health (DOH) said it is ready to expand COVID-19 testing to certain asymptomatic groups, now that the country has managed 10,000 tests a day.
In a virtual press conference Friday, infectious disease expert Dr. Anna Ong-Lim said this group would include people who had come in close contact with those infected by the novel coronavirus, including the patient's family, co-workers and health care workers that tended to the patient. Willie Casas, Vito Barcelo, Maricel V. Cruz, Joel E. Zurbano
Another infectious diseases expert, Dr. Benjamin Co, said the Philippines’ COVID-19 positivity rate of 7.2 percent is below the World Health Organization’s 10 percent benchmark, which is a sign that the country is sufficiently testing. The positivity rate shows what percentage of the population that has been tested turns out positive for the disease, he said.
Co also noted that the case fatality rate was within 4.8 percent, which will likely decrease further once testing is expanded.
54 labs certified to do testing
The Philippines now has 54 laboratories that have been certified to conduct independent testing for COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
In a report on Sunday, the department said 41 of these facilities are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratories. The 13 others are GeneXpert laboratories.
The latest facilities to receive accreditation were the Ospital ng Imus and the Dr. Arturo P. Pingoy Medical Center.
A total of 141 other institutions are undergoing the five-step laboratory accreditation process, 112 or 79 percent of which are already at Stage 3 and above.
Among the 41 PCR laboratories, 24 are in Metro Manila while the others are in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Regions I, III, IV-A, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and XI.
The certified laboratories have tested 395,221 individuals as of June 6, 7 percent of whom tested positive for COVID-19.
BI office shut for disinfection
The Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) main office in Intramuros, Manila was closed and its operation was temporarily halted as it will undergo disinfection after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered the bureau's general services section to immediately conduct the disinfection and sanitize all offices inside the BI main building.
"We have decided to temporarily close our main office to protect not only our employees but that of the transacting public as well against this deadly virus," the BI chief said in a statement.
Morente advised those who have secured slots through the BI's newly-launched online appointment system to defer their transaction as they will be notified later about the new schedule of their appointments.
2-month-old girl recovers
A two-month old baby girl in Pasay City has recovered from COVID-19, Mayor Imelda Rubiano said.
Rubiano said the baby was discharged Monday from the Pasay City General Hospital (PCGH) where she was treated.
“This is indeed a day to rejoice. In our battle against COVID-19, our spirits and our determination to win get major boost with every person that we help recover through our city’s functioning health care system,” the city chief executive said.
“This positive development inspires and moves us to persevere in our response measures to this pandemic,” she added.
Virus research lab pushed
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda is pushing for the creation of a virus research laboratory under the Department of Science and Technology.
Salceda said that the DOST-endorsed bill will prepare the country better in case of pandemics in the future.
Salceda, chairman of the committee on ways and means, said the bill creating the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) “should serve as a foundation for a resolutely science-based manner of addressing infectious diseases and epidemics.”
“It should be clear to all of us: preparation yields the best outcomes. The same goes for pandemics. It’s difficult to do because the rewards are not immediate. But the consequences to the unprepared can be catastrophic,” Salceda said.