MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Department of Health (DOH) at 9 pm, Saturday, March 14, announced 13 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country, bringing the total number of cases to 111.
Like in its earlier reports, the DOH said: "The details of these new cases are currently being validated by our teams and will be provided to the public as soon as the information is available and verified by the Department. In addition, we are also verifying reports of additional cases."
The DOH also said that the Rizal Medical Center in Pasig City reported that some of its personnel were exposed to the coronavirus.
"DOH is still verifying data on the exact figures and the updated conditions of the health workers," it said.
Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the press conference on Saturday that they are enforcing strict infection prevention and control procedures in hospitals, including the Philippine Heart Center.
Vergeire said that these hospitals would continue operating.
"'Yung operations ng ating ospital, hindi dapat matigil (Hospital operations must continue)," she said.
Vergeire said those who died were patients who were considered as most vulnerable because of their age and preexisting illnesses.
"Sila po 'yung mga matatanda, elderly, at 'yun pong mga may underlying condition, maliban sa COVID-19 gaya ng diabetes, sakit sa puso, high blood, cancer, 'yung mga umiinom ng gamot na nakakababa ng resistensya," said Vergeire.
(These are the elderly and those with underlying conditions like diabetes, heart ailment, high blood pressure, cancer and those who take medicines that weaken one's immunity.)
Vergeire also reacted to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri's call for the DOH to "try drugs already in use" by countries like South Korea, which the senator linked to lesser death rates.
"We now have one of the highest death rates of COVID-19 cases in the region at almost 10%.... Try the drugs already in use by Thailand, Korea, and India where it seems to be working and they have lessened their death rates," said Zubiri.
Vergeire said these drugs must undergo stringent regulatory examinations, since their purpose was not originally to treat the novel coronavirus. There is no known cure for the new virus yet.
"Kailangan nating malaman na ito'y magiging safe and effective kapag ginamit natin ito sa ating mga kababayan duon sa paraan other than the original intention of the medicine (We must know if it will be safe and effective if our countrymen use it for a purpose other than intended)," said Vergeire.
As for the University of the Philippines (UP)-developed test kits, Vergeire said they are constantly following up with the reference laboratories to begin the rollout.
"So ngayon ang last process ay vinavalidate na po ito ng ating reference laboratory sa Pilipinas, pag nakatapos na po tayo niyan, maaari na po nating gamitin (We are now at the last process which is the validation of the reference laboratory in the Philippines, and once that's done we can begin using it)," said Vergeire.
The DOH said that people who will be travelling from Metro Manila, even those without symptoms, should undergo strict home quarantine for 14 days.
"Travelers from NCR who are out of the region will be considered as Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs)," said the DOH.
Those travelling from Metro Manila with symptoms such as fever and respiratory symptems are considers Persons Under Investigation (PUIs), and they are advised to seek medical attention from a health facility.
The rising number of COVID-19 cases has prompted the government to imposed a 30-day lockdown in Metro Manila beginning Sunday, March 15.
The Metro Manila Council on Saturday urged Local Legislative Councils in Metro Manila to pass ordinances imposing an 8 pm to 5 am curfew starting Sunday, and ordering the temporary closure of malls and similar establishments. Rappler.com