âCommunity transmissionâ declared; cases hit 187
At the same time, the DOH said one of two repatriates from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who contracted the virus had recovered.
Edd Gumban

‘Community transmission’ declared; cases hit 187

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Forty-five new cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) recorded by the Department of Health (DOH) brought the total number of cases to 187 yesterday, with two more deaths, as Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed that there is now “community transmission” of the disease in the country.

At the same time, the DOH said one of two repatriates from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who contracted the virus had recovered.

The DOH said the patient, known as PH25, is a 31-year-old Filipino male from Negros Oriental. He was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 last March 10.

After testing negative twice, however, the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital, where he was managed, had confirmed he is now free of the virus. The patient was scheduled to be discharged yesterday.

This brings to four the total number of cases in the country who have recovered from COVID-19. The latest of them is a 44-year-old Filipino male (PH14) from Pasay City.

Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said a majority of the cases belong to the “working age group” of 29 to 59.

Vergeire added that around 30-35 percent of the cases have mild symptoms, while around nine percent had “severe and critical” manifestations.  

‘Untraceable chains’

Duque noted that there is now an “unlinkable clustering of cases or untraceable chains of transmission” of the virus in the community.

“This means that some cases no longer have history of travel to COVID-19-affected countries, exposure to a positive COVID-19 case. You can no longer link cases to each other,” he said during a press briefing at Malacañang on Monday night.

Vergeire backed Duque’s pronouncement, noting that community transmission is “sustained.”

“We have been studying cases these past days. We looked at their profiles and we saw that there is already a clustering of cases… In this type of situation, it means we already have a sustained community transmission,” she said in a television interview.

Vergeire added that clustering means, for instance, the infection is circulating within a family or a particular group of individuals.

On the other hand, there are positive individuals whose source of infection could no longer be determined.

Duque said the country would be able to get an idea of the number of people who have contracted the virus in the country as the government starts implementing “massive testing.”

“We have limited testing capacity, especially in the past several weeks. But now, I am confident that with many testing kits arriving – in fact, many have already arrived – we will be able to pick up more positives but mild case,” he said.

2nd case at House

Amid these developments, another House of Representatives printing employee has tested positive for COVID-19.

A colleague of the sickly 41-year-old employee of the printing service of the House who succumbed to the disease has been tested positive for the virus, secretary-general Jose Luis Montales confirmed yesterday.

“He last reported for work on March 5. He went on leave on March 6 and was admitted to the hospital on March 7. The diagnosis was dengue. The doctors tested him for COVID-19 on March 12 and 14,” Montales said.

“We reiterate our request for everyone to stay calm. The spread of this disease can be controlled with everyone’s cooperation,” he added. “Our prayers will come a long way for him. Let us keep praying for his recovery and for his family’s health.”

On March 13, the House announced new work arrangements, like rotational skeletal workforce, work from home and on-call, according to Montales.

“Let us follow the House’s safety protocols, the community quarantine and the social distancing guidelines,” he said.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez supported President Duterte’s decision to impose an enhanced community quarantine on the entire Luzon island on Monday night.

“Though a bitter pill to swallow, the order is needed as part of containment and mitigation efforts in our fight for survival as a nation. Our concern at the moment is how to keep our families safe at all costs,” Romualdez said.

“I enjoin our people to set aside politics in the meantime and unite for once as we seek long-lasting solutions to stop the spread of the virus in our communities,” the Leyte congressman added, urging Filipinos to cooperate with authorities.

Rep. Eric Go Yap of party-list ACT-CIS, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, disclosed that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. is willing to cough up an additional P500 million, on top of the P2 billion it has already given to the government.

“This will be a very big help to us and will boost further our efforts to contain the spread of the virus, as the (DOH) can strengthen and boost the efforts in the control and prevention of COVID-19,” he said.

Positive case in Caloocan

Meanwhile, a Caloocan city hall employee has tested positive for COVID-19, Mayor Oscar Malapitan said.

In a statement posted on his Facebook account, Malapitan said the COVID-19 patient is recovering from the virus.

The patient last visited city hall last March 3, according to the mayor, adding that he had ordered the disinfection and sanitation of the building.

Those who have been exposed to the patient were also put under self-quarantine as persons under monitoring (PUMs), he said.

The city hall employee is the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Caloocan, after one resident also tested positive and is now confined at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.

In a phone interview, Malapitan said two persons were declared dead on arrival at Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Tala, Caloocan on Monday.

While there is no confirmation yet from the DOH, he said he had been told by a doctor from the Tala hospital that the two Caloocan residents probably died of COVID-19.

“They may have died of COVID. It’s not yet sure, but the recommendation of doctors is to cremate the remains immediately,” Malapitan said.

He added that the families of the two fatalities, who had asked for financial assistance for the cremation, were also considered as PUMs.

Baliuag mayor positive

Baliuag Mayor Ferdie Estrella announced yesterday he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Estrella said he was not feeling well last week, and the symptoms are similar to that of the viral disease, so he consulted a doctor.

A laboratory test from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine was released yesterday and tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

PUI dies in Marawi

A person under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 yesterday died in a hospital in Marawi City just as another patient at Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Cotabato City tested positive for the disease.

The CRMC is the largest government hospital in central Mindanao.

Media outfits in Cotabato City and nearby Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces received at noon yesterday a copy of a statement from the Department of Surgery at CRMC, which stated that there is indeed a patient at the hospital who tested positive for the disease.

Bangsamoro Parliament member Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for the Lanao del Sur Provincial Anti-Covid-19 Task Force, yesterday said the patient, who passed away while undergoing treatment at the Amai Pakpak Hospital in Marawi City, was one of the local missionaries who attended a recent Islamic congregational activity in Malaysia.

Adiong added that the patient died even before hospital personnel could get the result of his COVID-19 test from a laboratory outside Marawi City.

Adiong said there are more than 80 Maranaos in various towns in Lanao del Sur now tagged as PUMs by the Integrated Provincial Health Office, but he did not elaborate.

Thousands of commuters and motorists from Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces were barred by the police and military from entering Cotabato City, whose local government unit has ordered a city-wide lockdown since before dawn yesterday as part of its anti-COVID-19 efforts and amid reports that a patient at CRMC, a Muslim cleric, had tested positive for the infection.

Only medical personnel of various hospitals and clinics residing in nearby barangays in Maguindanao’s Sultan Kudarat and Datu Odin Sinsuat were allowed to get through security checkpoints. – With Delon Porcalla, Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Ramon Efren Lazaro, John Unson

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