Coronavirus cases rise outside Metro Manila as tests slowly keep up

Nikko Dizon
Coronavirus cases rise outside Metro Manila as tests slowly keep up
(UPDATED) The Department of Health warns the public numbers will increase as government acquires more test kits and sub-national laboratories are accredited to conduct tests nationwide

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Many La Union residents were sent into a panic on Tuesday, March 31, after hearing there were 7 new coronavirus cases spread out in different towns in the province.

There was one new case in Caba town, where the mayor and a councilor earlier tested positive for the disease. There were two cases in Agoo, one in Bauang, one in Sto. Tomas, one in San Juan, and one in Naguilian. The total was 9.

The confirmation was belated. Three of the new cases – the ones from San Juan, Bauang, and Agoo – had died without knowing they acquired the dreaded novel coronavirus disease. 

“The provincial government continues to take the necessary measures to contain and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the province,” said Governor Francisco Emmanuel Ortega in a statement posted on Facebook.

He called on residents to follow lockdown measures put in place to stem the spread of the disease.

From 10 to over 2,000 cases in a month

La Union, like many provinces and cities outside Metro Manila, has seen its cases rise in the past week as government slowly keeps up with demand for testing suspected cases around the country. 

The Department of Health warned the public numbers will increase as the government acquired more test kits. The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), once the only place that tested samples for coronavirus, has expanded its operations while several sub-national laboratories were accredited to conduct tests around the country.

The country’s total cases had risen from 10 on March 8 to over 2,000 cases by March 31.

Former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said the number of cases could reach 75,000  by the middle of April 2020, based on assumptions that there are many undetected cases and the real number was about 26,000 cases by the end of March. 

4 cases in Aklan travelled to Manila

Aklan, the province where the famous Boracay Island is located, recorded its 4th confirmed case on Wednesday, April 1.

The latest samples were tested at the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in neighboring Iloilo City, allowing a quicker turn around of results.  

The province used to have direct flights from Wuhan in China, where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged, bringing hundreds of Chinese tourists to Boracay. It doesn’t seem like it was the tourists who brought the disease into the province, however. 

Just like the 3 earlier cases in Aklan, the 4th case has history of travel to Metro Manila, the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak in the country. 

He is a resident of Altavas but works in Roxas City, the capital of neighboring Capiz province. He was admitted to the Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital (RMPH) in neighboring Capiz province. 

“The patient was confined in Capiz by nature of his work. He was assigned in Capiz. The patient had exposure in Manila,” said Capiz provincial health officer Leah Del Rosario.

Many Filipinos working or studying in Metro Manila went home to their provinces in the middle of March as the national government imposed measures to stem the spread of the disease in capital.

4 new cases in Tarlac, 3 in Pampanga

Tarlac province also confirmed 4 new cases while neighboring Pampanga added 4 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 13 and 10 respectively.

The new cases in Tarlac include a 64-year-old man from Camiling town, a 58-year-old man from Tarlac City, and two from Paniqui town.

The 64-year-old man from Camiling and the 58-year-old man from Tarlac have reportedly recovered from the disease and have been discharged from the hospital.

The two cases from Paniqui, a man and a woman, were asymptomatic. The woman travelled to a European country. They both had close contact with a family member who earlier tested positive for the disease. 

The cases in Pampanga include 3 from San Fernando City, two from Floridablanca town, two from Macabebe town, and one each from the towns of Porac, Bacolor and Apalit.

Three of the Pampanga’s total 10 cases have died – one from San Fernando, one from Bacolor and one from Apalit.

7 cases in Bicol region 

Bicol region also recorded 3 new cases this week, bringing the total to 7.

The new cases are a 30-year-old female from Camarines Sur, a 60-year-old female also from Camarines Sur, and a 63-year-old male from Albay. 

The 30-year-old Filipino female from Camarines Sur was admitted to the Bicol Medical Center (BMC). She travelled to the United Arab Emirates and Caloocan City.

She went to BMC for check up when she showed symptoms for coronavirus. She was tested there. 

The 60-year-old Filipino female from the same province also travelled to Manila. 

The 63-year-old Filipino male from Albay was admitted to the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH). It is not clear how he may have caught the disease. 

Department of Health regional director Ernie Vera said all confirmed cases in Bicol are in stable condition. 

The DOH local office condemned reports that the region’s coronavirus cases were attacked online after their identifies were divulged. 

“The Local Government Units (LGUs) are given the discretion to announce additional information particularly actions taken in relation to the confirmed cases, provided that they adhere to the provisions of the Data Privacy Act to protect the patients from discrimination,” Vera said. – Rappler.com 

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Nikko Dizon

Nikko Dizon is a freelance journalist specializing in security and political reporting. She has extensively covered issues involving the military, the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute, human rights, and the peace process.