PH coronavirus cases rise to 230; fatalities now at 18

Mara Cepeda
(UPDATED) The total number of recoveries stays at 8 as of 12 pm Friday, March 20

LOCKDOWN. Commuters flock to a bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City, on March 13, 2020, before the entire island of Luzon was placed on Lockdown. File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines is now at 230 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported an additional 13 cases as of 12 pm Friday, March 20.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced the latest tally in a press conference that aired on state-run PTV-4 past 4 pm Friday. The DOH is yet to release more details about the new cases.

Vergeire also said one more patient with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, died. He was Patient 124, a 65-year-old Filipino male who traveled from Singapore. He died on Tuesday, March 17. 

This means the total fatalities in the Philippines due to COVID-19 is currently at 18. 

No new recoveries were reported, which means the number of patients who no longer have COVID-19 stays at 8. 

The DOH tracker shows there are a total of 506 persons under investigation (PUIs) for COVID-19 who are currently confined in medical facilities nationwide, while another 6,321 are persons under monitoring quarantined at home. 

In an earlier press conference on Friday, Vergeire admitted the Philippine health care system is “challenged” by the growing demand for test kits. 

This shortage has forced the DOH to prioritize testing for PUIs who have severe or critical symptoms and have either traveled to a country with local transmission of COVID-19 or have known exposure to a positive case. 

Vergeire said there are now 5 subnational laboratories that can test COVID-19 samples: the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center in Baguio City, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila City, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City. (READ: Coronavirus mass testing not needed for now – DOH)

Vergeire said each of these laboratories is capable of processing some 50 to 300 tests per day. 

Two more subnational laboratories are being eyed to eventually become extension testing centers for COVID-19: the Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City and the Bicol Public Health Laboratory.

Vergeire also said the laboratory of the University of the Philippines-National Institutes for Health, which developed its own testing kit, is being mobilized to augment the government’s testing capacity. – Rappler.com