Update, March 10, 2020, 4:40 p.m.: During a press conference, the DOH clarified that there are 9 new cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines and 11 new positive samples. The total number of cases in the country is 33.
Original story below:
As of Tuesday, March 10, 2020, the Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 11 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines, bringing up the total number of cases to 35.
GMA Newsreports that in a congressional hearing on Tuesday, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said that two of the confirmed cases — one Filipino and one American — are currently in critical condition.
The Filipino is a 62-year-old male who had been diagnosed with severe pneumonia as well as conditions like diabetes and hypertension, while the American has also been said to have “many” preexisting conditions before being diagnosed with COVID-19, GMA Newswrites.
In a post on its official Facebook page, the DOH said it will be releasing more information on the new cases soon.
On the same day, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has approved the use of COVID-19 test kits developed by scientists at the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIS).
In a statement, FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said that the SARS-CoV-2 PCR Detection Kit, which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), will be “used for field testing coupled with gene sequencing at the Philippine Genome Center.”
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“The increasing number of reported COVID-19 cases will require immediate diagnosis and monitoring,” Director-General Domingo explained. “This will provide our laboratories with technological reinforcement to accommodate the growing number of patients to be tested and aid in early screening of positive cases. Furthermore, this will provide access to a less costly diagnostic procedure.”
CNN Philippinesnotes that the kits are still awaiting clearance and approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) and are yet to be rolled out to local hospitals.
CNN Philippines also reports that Secretary Duque said the DOH aims for UP-NIH to begin carrying out tests starting this week and that the WHO is looking into the testing capabilities of the UP-NIH and other sub-national reference laboratories in various parts of the Philippines.
“Ang WHO, nagpadala ng mga eksperto para tulungan suriin ang kakayahan,” said Secretary Duque. “Kung sila ay pumasa sa criteria, sila po ay pahihintulutan ng RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) na magsagawa na ng testing.”
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On March 9, President Rodrigo Dutertedeclared a state of public health emergency due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. He also ordered the suspension of classes in Metro Manila from Tuesday, March 10, to Saturday, March 14. Regional and national events involving students have likewise been suspended by the DOH.