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Government puts cap on nasal swab; P5k maximum

The government has recommended the RT-PCR (nasal swab) test for COVID-19 to be priced from P3,800 to P5,000 at the maximum, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced on Wednesday.

Duque said the price cap, provided under the Joint Administrative Order of the health and trade departments, set the price cap of RT-PCR test at P3,800 for public facilities and P4,500 to P5,000 for private hospitals and laboratories.

Duque said violations of the price cap would mean suspension of license to operate for first and second offenses, while a third offense would mean revocation of license.

RT-PCR, or real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, test is considered as the gold standard for testing possible COVID-19 infection.

The price cap for RT-PCR test was set almost eight months after the community transmission of COVID-19 was recorded in the country last March.

At a separate press briefing, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez said the Philippine government was planning to administer COVID-19 vaccines to 20 up to 30 million Filipinos yearly within five years.

“We will do this in a three to five years period kasi po kaya lang natin mapa-vaccinate is more or less 20 to 30 million a year,” Galvez said.

“At the same time, we will be looking at which would be the effective vaccine,” he said.

For the best-case scenario, Galvez said the mass vaccination would be launched either by the second quarter of 2021 or by the middle of 2021.

Gradual rise

The Philippines may see a gradual rise of COVID-19 cases, a group of analysts warned Wednesday, as virus infections climbed in many parts of the country.

In its latest report, the OCTA Research team said Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Western Visayas reported an increase of new coronavirus cases in the past several days.

From Nov. 18 to 24, NCR recorded the highest number of new daily cases with 373, followed by Calabarzon (338), Central Luzon (185) and Western Visayas (110). Davao Region reported 114 new daily cases for the same period, but it was a 23-percent drop from its previous week’s 147 cases.

While it was not clear if the increase could be attributed to the opening of economy, the effects of recent typhoons or lax compliance of minimum health standards due to pandemic fatigue, the group said it may lead to a surge in COVID-19 infections if the trend continued.

“While this may be a cause for concern, it should not be a cause for alarm or panic. The situation in the country is still manageable,” the OCTA team said.

High-risk

“However, the data reinforces the view that the current positive trends in the Philippines and in the NCR are tenuous and can easily be reversed if the government, the private sector, and the public become less vigilant and complacent in the fight against COVID-19.”

Due to the uptick in new cases, the group marked the following local government units (LGUs) as high-risk: Makati City in the National Capital Region; Baguio City, Lucena, Batangas City, Capas in Luzon; Davao City and Pagadian in Mindanao.

“We urge the LGUs concerned to further intensify their efforts at testing, tracing and isolation to reverse the increase in transmissions in their communities,” the group said.

High-risk areas are those with high daily cases, high positivity rate, high attack rate or high hospital occupancy due to COVID-19.

As the holiday season nears, the OCTA team -- composed of professors from the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College in the United States – also warned of mixing households, which could drive the increase of COVID-19 cases.

“We encourage the government and LGUs to enforce the current GCQ (general community quarantine) limit of 10 persons per gathering in the NCR and to discourage office parties and other social events, especially as we approach the Christmas season,” the group said.

“Family gatherings should be limited in size and should be celebrated outside to mitigate transmission.”

Health care

The OCTA team also called on the national government to increase the capacity of the national health care system; increase testing; scale-up contact tracing efforts; and improve the capabilities of LGUs to implement community health programs as it further opens the economy.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila increased by 6 percent but the virus’ reproduction number in the country remains below one, an expert from the University of the Philippines-OCTA Research team said on Wednesday.

 The reproduction number is the expected number of new infections an infected individual may cause in a population where everyone is susceptible. An amount lower than 1 means a flattened curve, the OCTA Research team said.

 Professor Guido David, in an interview on Balitanghali, said the reproduction number remains at 0.83 despite an increase in new cases in the capital region.

Shoppers in droves

It was reported earlier this week that shoppers came out in droves in places like Divisoria in Manila and Bulacan in Parañaque, with social distancing not observed—prompting the Department of Health to warn of the risks of infection in crowded areas, even among people wearing face masks.

“Although we are not sure if this is the explanation since not all the LGUS in Metro manila registered an increase,” he said.

He also said cases in Central Luzon also increased, especially in Bulacan, Bataan, and Tarlac.

David said the trend is reversible, so he advised the public to maintain their efforts in sustaining it.

New cases

The Philippines logged on Wednesday 1,202 new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, bringing the total to 422,915 after 8 laboratories failed to submit their data, the Department of Health reported.

Active cases were logged at 27,745, which is 6.6 percent of the total number of cases. Of the active cases, 83.7 percent were mild; 8.2 percent were asymptomatic; 5.1 percent were critical; 2.7 percent were severe, and 0.27 percent were moderate.

 Top cities and provinces with new cases are Davao City, 137; Quezon City, 68; Batangas, 59; Laguna, 54; and Cavite, 47.

 The DOH also reported that 183 persons have recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 386,955, which is 91.5 percent of the total cases.

 The DOH likewise reported 31 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 8,215, which is 1.94 percent of the total cases.

The DOH also reported that, nationwide, of the approximately 1,900 total ICU bed capacity, 58 percent are available;  of the approximately 13,500 total isolation bed capacity, 61 percent are available;  of the 5,900 total ward bed capacity, 70 percent are available;  and of the approximately 2,000 total units of ventilators, 80 percent are available.

Topics: RT-PC , nasal swab test , COVID-19 , Francisco Duque III , Carlito Galvez
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