THE Philippines has 84 additional cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total count to 636, the Department of Health reported on Wednesday, March 25.
The department also recorded three additional deaths, bringing the official death toll to 38.
The fatalities include a 56-year-old male Filipino resident of Quezon City with no travel history who succumbed to community-acquired pneumonia; a 57-year-old male from Caloocan City who died of acute respiratory distress syndrome secondary to pneumonia and COVID-19; and an 82-year-old female Filipino from Marikina City who had a travel history to the United States.
The DOH reported six recoveries, raising the national tally of recovered patients to 26.
Mass testing still not an option
Mass testing cannot be implemented as the country lacks enough test kits and is still expanding the capacity of its laboratories, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
“While we already have 100,000 testing kits, we expect more to arrive, these are not enough to conduct mass testing,” she said.
“For now, mass testing is not in our consideration because we lack capacity. Even if we have testing kits but we do not have laboratories, we cannot do it. So we are completing the establishment of extension laboratories nationwide,” she added.
Vergeire noted that mass testing may be possible once the government has sufficient resources.
“Once we stabilize all our laboratories, we can decide if we can do mass testing or not,” she said.
The second week of Luzon’s enhanced community quarantine opened with President Rodrigo Duterte asking the Congress “for a limited period and subject to restrictions” powers that are necessary for dealing with the current health situation in the country.
Last week, he signed Proclamation 929, which declares a state of calamity for a period of six months unless lifted earlier extended “as circumstances may warrant.”
The declaration enjoins all government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to render full assistance in combating the spread of the disease.
“All government agencies and LGUs are enjoined to render full assistance to and cooperation with each other and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate disaster response aid and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19,” stated Duterte’s proclamation.
His declaration also directs law enforcement agencies, with the support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, “to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order.”
The president also placed Luzon on an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the virus in the country.
“I have come to the conclusion that stricter measures are necessary. For this reason, pursuant to my powers as President under the constitution and RA 11332, I am placing the entire mainland of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine until April 12, 2020,” he said in a nationally televised address on March 16.
An enhanced community quarantine suspends mass public transport, and land, air, and sea travel. It also implements a strict home quarantine for every household, regulates provisions for food and essential health services, and heightens the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures.
Duterte urged the public once again to stay inside their homes.
“Everyone will stay at home, leaving their houses only to buy food, medicine, and other things necessary for survival,” he said.
Private establishments providing basic necessities, such as those related to food and medicine production, are allowed to operate with a skeleton force. Among those businesses include public markets, supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drugstores, food preparation and delivery services, water-refilling stations, and banks.
Malls, meanwhile, have already announced their temporary closure until further notice.
Different cities in Metro Manila have also implemented a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the quarantine period — among them are Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Muntinlupa, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City, San Juan, and Taguig.