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COVID-19 tally nears 420,000; 8,123 dead

THE DEPARTMENT of Health reported 1,968 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the country’s total to 418,818.

The death toll rose to 8,123 with 43 new fatalities while recoveries increased by 10,957 to 386,486, it said in a bulletin.

There were 24,209 active cases, 82.5% of which were mild, 8.2% did not show symptoms, 5.8% were critical, 3.2% were severe, and 0.28% were moderate.

Cavite reported the highest number of new cases at 107, followed by Quezon City at 97, Davao City at 86, Laguna at 84, and Quezon at 77.

A total of 5.1 million individuals have been tested for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as of Nov. 20, according to the Health department’s tracker website.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week approved the emergency use of coronavirus vaccines in the country.

This would cut the approval process to 21 days from six months.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo on Thursday said five vaccine manufacturers intend to conduct clinical trials in the Philippines.

About 58.5 million were infected and about 1.4 million people died of coronavirus worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 40.5 million people have recovered, it said.

At the House of Representatives, a bill seeking to determine the specifications of the cold storage facilities needed for the COVID-19 vaccines has been filed.

Quezon City Rep. Precious H. Castelo filed House Bill No. 8000 or the proposed Vaccine-Ready Philippines Act of 2020, which mandates the Health department to provide sufficient and appropriate cold storage equipment for storage and safekeeping of the vaccines prior to arrival in the country.

“This pandemic has taught us many things, one of which is the importance of preparation. While this pandemic is something that caught many countries and governments off guard, this is not sufficient excuse not to prepare,” the bill’s explanatory note stated.

“Considering that the Philippines is also a relatively populous nation, a safe and effective mass distribution of the vaccines require ample planning and preparation.”

The measure also tasks the Health department, in coordination with the Inter-Agency Task Force  (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the implementation of the law.

Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., IATF chief implementer, has been designated by the President as vaccine czar, giving him authority to lead and coordinate all aspects of the vaccine procurement and distribution.

A senator, meanwhile, called on southeast Asian leaders to agree on a global price ceiling and even a waiver on patents for vaccines.

Senator Imee R. Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs, urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to use “its clout to start a new way of doing business in the manufacture, patenting, pricing, and distribution of vaccines for COVID-19 and future pandemics.”

“We need a global accord on COVID-19 vaccines, a standard ceiling on vaccine prices, diversified manufacturing and supply in all world regions,” Ms. Marcos said in a statement over the weekend.

“The ASEAN can initiate a new normal for patents and copyrights, a world order of fairness, compassion and commitment to the common good,” she said.

Leaders of the 10-member ASEAN held a Special Summit on COVID-19 in April to discuss a “collective response” to the pandemic.

In the joint declaration issued on April 14, the member nations resolved to “remain united and vigilant against COVID-19 and commit to work closely with the WHO, ASEAN’s external partners and the international community” to stop the spread of the pandemic and “protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

ASEAN is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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