The Philippines recorded yesterday its largest daily increase in coronavirus deaths and infections, as it ramped up testing with the arrival of thousands of kits from abroad and the opening of new laboratories.
Ten more deaths took the toll to 88, while the tally of infections rose to 2,084, with 538 additional cases, said health ministry official Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The ministry has opened new labs and run more than 15,000 tests, a five-fold jump from about 3,000 last week, she said, adding that more hospitals were seeking government approval to function as testing centres.
“We have six more laboratories to conduct tests,” Vergeire said. “We are also conducting contact tracing to find possibly infected persons.”
Philippine hospitals are struggling with a shortage of protective gear, manpower and testing capacity, as are hospitals elsewhere.
The Philippines, the third country after China and Italy to order home quarantine for a large part of its population of 107mn had until recently reported fewer cases than expected, with many deaths.
Authorities had attributed that to a lack of testing kits and lab capacity.
President Rodrigo Duterte has put retired generals among his cabinet in charge of the task force battling the crisis, saying its management requires military-style discipline.
Coronavirus testing is expected to increase substantially in coming days in the Philippines, where the high number of deaths relative to confirmed cases reflects lower testing so far, a World Health Organisation official said yesterday.
“With respect to the high proportion of deaths in the Philippines, that’s essentially because of the way Philippines has chosen to test,” WHO technical advisor Matthew Griffith told a news conference, referring to the focus on testing only the most severe cases until now.
“We expect the testing to increase substantially in the coming days.”
An association of airlines in the Philippines is requesting government help, saying they face a threat to their survival as the global push to contain the coronavirus spread hampers operations, the airlines said in a letter seen by Reuters.
The letter, dated March 25, was sent by a domestic airlines association that includes Cebu Air Inc, Philippine Airlines and the local unit of Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd as its members.
The airlines said they were not seeking handouts, but emergency credit lines and waiver of navigation and airport fees, due to the “catastrophic impact” of the
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