At least 100 Covid-19 patients in the Philippines will be given the anti-flu drug Avigan from Japan, as part of a clinical trial in treating the highly contagious disease, the Health Department said on Wednesday.

The department was preparing a protocol to choose the patients to be included, said Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

‘We have the go signal to conduct the clinical trial in the coming days,’ she said. ‘The Japanese government is providing supply for 100 patients. We already have the clearances from different institutions in the country.’  Inclusion in the trial will be voluntary, Vergeire added, saying, ‘Since this is a clinical trial, the informed consent of the patient should be there.’  There are 9,684 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Philippines, including 637 deaths as of Tuesday, the department said.

Vergeire said that, according to data, the Philippines appears to have slowed down the spread of the coronavirus since a lockdown was imposed on the country's most populous island, Luzon, in mid-March.

‘Our case-doubling time has slowed down from two to three days to five days,’ she said. ‘In other areas, it's 7.5 days. This is a good indication that we are starting to flatten the curve, but it is too early to say that we have flattened the curve.’ 

Vergeire said experts stressed that the Philippines needs to step up its testing capacities to at least 15,000 Covid-19 tests per day to determine the actual state of the outbreak in the country.