Minister says too early to tell if virus curbs effective
March 30 2020 10:45 PM
Health Secretary Francisco Duque.


The Philippines’ health minister said yesterday it was too early to assess if a month-long lockdown affecting more than half of the country’s population would need to be extended to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
As the lockdown on the main island of Luzon entered its third week,
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the current number of reported cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, does not reflect the real status of the outbreak in the country.
“The decision to lift or extend the lockdown will depend on the real status of Covid-19 in the Philippines, and the basis of that will be the testing,” he told DZBB radio station.
Duque said that government laboratories capable of processing specimens still have a backlog in testing.
“When that backlog becomes zero, then we will know the real-time Covid-19 status in the Philippines.”
The Department of Health reported 128 new confirmed infections yesterday, bringing the country’s total to 1,546.
Seven additional deaths were reported, pushing the death toll to 78, while recoveries remained at 42.
The month-long lockdown in Luzon, where the capital Manila is located, took effect on March 16, and was supposed to be lifted on April 14.
“It’s too early to assess,” Duque said. “Remember that in Wuhan, China, they started the lockdown on January 23 and, in fact, they are still restricted up to now. They have not completely lifted the lockdown after two months.”
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the public should expect the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases to increase as more facilities have been accredited to conduct testing.
“The aim is early detection for early treatment and early recovery,” she said. “Let us all continue to follow the quarantine rules so we can stop the numbers from rising.”

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