Novel coronavirus cases in Philippines spike to 20

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines now has a total of 20 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 10 additional patients who tested positive on Monday, March 9.

This was announced by DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a press conference on Monday, less than a day after the health department confirmed 4 patients across 4 cities in Metro Manila caught COVID-2019, the disease caused by the virus.  

“The Department of Health reported 10 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19, on top of the 4 new cases announced yesterday, March 8, 2020. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 20,” Vergeire said. 

All of the new coronavirus patients are Filipinos, at least 3 of whom had not traveled outside the Philippines:

They are all admitted to hospitals across Metro Manila. Patient 11 is currently at The Medical Center in Pasig City, while Patients 12 to 15 are admitted to the Makati Medical Center in Makati City.

The 16th and 17th positive cases, meanwhile, are under the care of the UniHealth Parañaque Hospital in Parañaque City, while Patients 18 and 19 are under observation at the Tricity Medical Center in Pasig.

Only the 20th case, the 48-year-old male with travel history to Japan, has been referred to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Vergeire said samples were taken from the 10 new cases between Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8, and the results were released only on Monday. The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the DOH’s research arm, is the Philippines' sole laboratory accredited by the WHO that can test novel coronavirus samples 

Vergeire said the huge jump in the positive cases was supposedly due to the “heightened surveillance” efforts of the DOH. The government is now coordinating with local government units to trace all individuals with whom the 10 patients have made contact. 

The DOH has been drawing flak for being too slow in disclosing important information about the patients who tested positive in the country, with local government units and even companies where the positive cases have been employed announcing ahead of the government.  

DOH said it will only test patients already showing respiratory symptoms and who have either traveled to countries with recorded cases, or who have been exposed to those who tested positive for the virus.  

“DOH urges all individuals who will be [contacted] by surveillance teams to fully cooperate in the investigation and contact-tracing activities. Individuals with history of known exposure to a positive patient and/or history of travel to areas with local transmission, with mild symptoms such as fever, dry cough, fatigue, productive phlegm, sore throat, [and] headache are advised to self-isolate and be home quarantined for 14 days,” Vergeire said.  

Vergeire said patients presenting “severe and critical symptoms” are the ones who need to be immediately admitted to a health facility.

Of the 20 confirmed cases, the country has recorded one death: a 44-year-old man who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the worldwide outbreak. It was the first coronavirus-related death recorded outside China. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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