FEBRUARY 14, 2020 – Philippine health authorities on Friday feared of a potential local community transmission of the deadly virus from China as seen in neighboring Asian countries.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III assured the public there is no case of local transmission of the corona virus disease (COVID-19) in the country despite more Filipinos were placed under observation for possible infection.
“While there is no recorded case of local transmission in the country, we can already see this happening in nearby countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, among others,” Duque said in a Malacañang press briefing.
“These developments propel us to gear up for a possible community spread.”
Duque allayed public fears of a local outbreak and vowed to step up it efforts to address the global emergency.
He said the DOH has yet to receive results of samples from 186 patients.
About 250 people had tested negative for the virus.
In China, the death toll from the outbreak rose to 1,380 while another 5,090 new cases were confirmed.
Japan also reported its first death from the virus yesterday, the third death outside China after Philippines and Hong Kong.
Duque said they are waiting for experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) for the capacity building of the country’s laboratories, such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
This will hasten the process of knowing whether a patient is negative or positive for COVID-19.
Right now, the DOH is sending samples to an Australian laboratory for confirmatory tests which usually take about a week.
“The effort to improve and build up the capacity for quality testing does not end with the subnational reference laboratories but also we are enjoining the private sector and hospitals with well-known and sophisticated laboratory capabilities,” Duque said.
The Department of Science and Technology is also checking on the test kits developed by scientists of the University of the Philippines, which is up for validation of the WHO.
“It has to be vetted strictly for sensitivity and specificity,” Duque said. “Mahirap ‘yung resulta ng test ay tagilid, ‘yung negative ginawang positive, o ‘yung positive ginawang positive. We will have to apply the most stringent standards of accuracy and sensitivity.”
The Philippines had three confirmed cases of COVID-19, all of which involved Chinese nationals. Two of the tourists had been sent back to home, while one died in a hospital in Manila.
In response, the Duterte administration placed a travel ban on China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan and repatriated affected overseas Filipino workers. (Karen Macalalad/MM)
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