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Philippines adds 11,000 more COVID-19 cases

By Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporters

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported 11,028 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 795,051.

Sunday’s tally was lower than the record 15,310 cases reported on Friday, which included 3,709 cases that were reported late, and the 12,576 infections on Saturday.

The death toll rose by two to 13,425, while recoveries increased by 41,205 to 646,100, it said in a bulletin.

There were 135,526 active cases, 97.4% of which were mild, 1% did not show symptoms, 0.6% were critical, 0.6% were severe and 0.36% were moderate.

The agency said 20 duplicates had been removed from the tally, while two recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Sunday’s cases did not include the number from five laboratories that failed to submit data on April 3.

About 9.7 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of April 2, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 131.4 million and killed 2.9 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 105.8 million people have recovered, it said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday extended the strict lockdown in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna until April 11 to slow the spike in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo urged the government to solve the shortage in hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

The government should rush the release of real-time updates on hospital bed capacities nationwide amid reports of patients dying after being turned down, she said in a Facebook post at the weekend.

Ms. Robredo said the government must fast-track the creation of a website that would provide real-time updates on hospital bed vacancies.

She said the command center responsible for referring patients to hospitals had been helpful, but it was already overwhelmed.

“The hotlines are difficult to access and in emergency situations, every minute, every second counts,” the vice president said.

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo J. Vega earlier said the center had been receiving an average of 399 calls daily, or almost four times the number last year.

He said all levels of beds dedicated to coronavirus patients and potential cases in Metro Manila had reached a moderate risk level.

He said intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients in the cities of Quezon, Taguig, Makati and Navotas were at a highly critical level.

‘RED TAPE’
Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. on Saturday said 110 more beds for moderate and severe coronavirus cases at the Quezon City Institute would become operational soon.

Also at the weekend, Senator Leila M. de Lima asked the government to allow the private sector to buy coronavirus vaccines from drug makers to speed up the rollout.

In a statement, the opposition senator said hospitals were being overwhelmed by the continued rise in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections.

“We need to step up our vaccination campaign and we need to work with our private sector,” Ms. De Lima said. “Only then can we even hope for anything close to an acceptable accomplishment in our fight against COVID-19.”

“Since the Duterte regime has proven its incompetence in its failure to secure timely vaccines for Filipinos, there is an urgent need to revisit the vaccination campaign, change the tripartite agreements that cause a bottleneck and allow the private sector to directly import vaccines without the Duterte-brand red tape,” she added.

The private sector can only buy vaccines through tripartite agreements with the government and drug makers.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week said he would allow private companies to import vaccines “at will.”

His spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. later clarified the importation would still be through tripartite agreements.

Mr. Roque said companies must import vaccines under a deal with the government and drug makers because the state would shoulder the liability in case people get sick from the vaccines.

Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. had said Mr. Duterte’s order was to fast-track the order process.

DoH said 738,913 vaccine doses have been given — 737,569 first shots and 1,344 second shots.

Philippine economic output fell to its worst recession last year since World War II. The World Bank has lowered its growth forecast for the Southeast Asian country this year amid a slow mass vaccination program.

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