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PH reports 128 new cases as nationwide tests begin

31 March 2020

By The SUN

China has protested a Philippine health official's statement that some of its test kits were only 40% accurate

The Philippines reported 128 new coronavirus cases and seven additional deaths on Monday, Mar 30, raising the total number of known infections in the country to 1,546, and the death toll to 78.

No new recoveries were recorded as the Department of Health attributed the surge to the arrival of donated test kits and opening of new laboratories to test samples nationwide as the country presses its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Monday’s new cases were fewer than half of the 343 cases on Sunday, the country’s largest daily tally. The number of recoveries remained at 42.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana said Beijing is sending a medical team to the Philippines.

He said in Monday’s “Laging Handa” media briefing that donating medical supplies was also among the list of China’s initiatives. 

“These medical supplies aren't donated from government to government but from private Chinoy, Filipino-Chinese, who donated. They bought the supplies here in China and stored them at one airport where they were picked up by planes,” he said.
Sta. Romana’s announcement of the medical team comes a day after the DOH retracted its earlier statement about China-donated test kits being inaccurate for usage.

Health Undersecretary Ma Rosario Vergeire said on Saturday some test kits from China were only 40% accurate and were thus stored away, but clarified on Sunday that it was just an unnamed brand of kits that was lacking one validation.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila assailed the claim as attempts to undermine Beijing’s cooperation. It sent to media a transcript of a text message sent by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III attesting “there is nothing wrong with the real time-polymerase chain reaction machine” used to generate positive or negative test results. 
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice will allow the release of seized medical supplies to frontline organizations, pending investigation, amid the state of public health emergency.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters in a message that state prosecutors, “pending investigation, will allow the release of seized and impounded medical supplies to the frontline agencies (such as the DOH) for proper disposition.”

The release of these items, including thermal scanners, face masks and alcohol, is “without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation,” he said, adding that representative samples will be retained by prosecutors as evidence.

Sundan ang Kuwentong Dram Love

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration approved on Monday five rapid antibody test kits for Covid-19) that are being used in China and Singapore.

FDA director-general Eric Domingo said the test kits could be useful in some instances such as testing patients with severe symptoms but have no capability to get tested in DOH laboratories.

The kits can also be used in health centers or clinics in areas where there are suspected outbreaks of the disease, Domingo said.
Five rapid antibody test kits used by China and Singapore will also be used in suspected cases (Shutterstock)

While the test kits may provide immediate results, the patient must still undergo a confirmatory test using laboratory-based testing, he said.

Domingo explained that the kits will only detect antibodies produced by the patient and not the virus itself. The patient could have a “false positive” or a “false negative result.”

Increases in the national total of the virus' carriers as of late have been linked to the arrival of newly-donated testing kits and the opening of new laboratories bolstering the country’s processing capacity.

As Luzon enters its third week under enhanced community quarantine, DOH asked for compassion to healthcare workers at the forefront of the Covid-19 fight who reportedly suffered violence and discrimination from the public.

On Sunday, DOH condemned the acts of physical assault, harassment and discrimination against health workers, citing the attack on a nurse in Sultan Kudarat by five men who “ganged up” on him and splattered bleach on his face.

DOH also said it has received reports of health workers being refused access to public transport and laundry, blocked and fined at checkpoints and evicted from their homes.

It also urged the Philippine National Police, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and local governments to keep frontliners safe from harm and discrimination.

Meanwhile, Kathryna Yu-Pimentel, wife of Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, gave birth to a baby girl on Sunday, Rappler reported, citing a reliable source.

The hospital where the daughter of the Covid-positive senator was born was not disclosed and there was no word yet of his wife’s virus tests.

However, Senator Pimentel was earlier reported as  having rushed his wife to Makati Medical Center while under quarantine, incurring the wrath of the hospital and many members of the public.

The baby, named Ma Kathryn Helena, is the couple’s first child.

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