Philippines' COVID-19 tally reaches 462 with 82 additional cases

Manila in quarantine
A nearly empty road is seen in Manila on March 20, 2020, after the government imposed an enhanced community quarantine against the rising numbers of COVID-19 coronavirus infections.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines (2nd update 4:32 p.m.) — With the addition of 82 detections, the Philippines' latest count of novel coronavirus infections rose to 462 in the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases.

The Department of Health reported the new count as of 4 p.m. on Monday amid mounting calls for the government to conduct mass testing to determine the extent and rate of infections in the country.

The country has also tallied 33 deaths related to the deadly disease and 18 recoveries. The DOH report indicates that some of the fatal cases were attributed only to COVID-19 a day or days after the patients already died when the test results came out positive for the virus.

According to DOH's tracker, 1,516 tests have been conducted, suggesting that only 12 in every one million Filipinos were tested. The rate makes the country a laggard among its peers in the region, with the exception of Indonesia which tested 7 per million people so far.

Vietnam tested 159 people per million, Thailand with 102 per million and Malaysia with 422 per million, according to the latest tallies in Our World In Data.

Approved test kits through the Food and Drug administration have been increased from four to eight over the past week. The Department of Health also approved four testing laboratories, moving from the initially centralized testing at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Despite such efforts, the real number of infections in the country may not be known before the lockdown of Metro Manila and the main island of Luzon is lifted by mid-April.

Health authorities have cited difficulties in procuring test kits amid a global demand as many countries are dealing with the pandemic. There was, however, a delay in procurement efforts for the weeks between the first detected cases in the Philippines and the eventual local transmission.

READ: Mass testing depends on resource adequacy — Duque

On Monday, Malacañang asked lawmakers to grant President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers waiving congressional approval and delegating to the executive the power to reappropriate funds in the national budget, thereby skirting or even violating constitutional restrictions.

In the draft bill being heard at a special session of Congress, the executive also proposed to make criminal any violation of the national government's guidelines under the State of Public Health Emergency with no clear expiry date.

It similarly asked legislators to grant the executive authority to take over companies including private hospitals should the outbreak worsen. — Camille Diola

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