The Department of Health announced 2,245 new infections of the coronavirus on Wednesday—the highest daily increase since November 8 last year—bringing the Philippines’ COVID-19 tally to 518,407.
Baguio City and Cebu City had the highest number of new cases at 121 each, followed by Davao City with 102, Quezon City with 87, and Pangasinan with 81.
Total recoveries logged at 475,542 after 140 more patients recovered from the respiratory disease, the DOH said.
The death toll climbed to 10,481 with 95 new fatalities. There are also 32,384 active cases undergoing treatment or quarantine.
Filipinos infected with the more infectious United Kingdom (UK) variant of the coronavirus remained at 17 on Wednesday, with 12 clustered in Bontoc, Mountain Province.
The other UK variant cases are residents of Quezon City, Jaro in Iloilo City, Binangonan in Rizal, Calamba in Laguna, and La Trinidad in Benguet.
Masks, shields enough
The Department of Health said it would look into whether or not wearing two face masks at a time would be more effective in avoiding COVID-19, with the new and more transmissible variant now in the country.
This, after double masking was recommended by United States’ top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said it was “common sense” that having an added layer of physical covering can prevent respiratory droplets from spreading.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire pointed out that Filipinos had been using additional protection.
“Because we think that wearing one mask and then a face shield is enough to be protected. We can see that from the time we implemented the mask and the face shield, our cases have not ballooned. Although cases have increased, it’s still manageable.),” Vergeire said during a Laging Handa briefing.
Test for travelers
The DOH has recommended fifth day screening as a second test for travelers after several contacts of the country’s first patient with the new COVID-19 variant tested positive for the disease, days after they tested negative upon arrival in Manila.
The IATF resolution has a “colatilla” that if travelers feel unwell or are under “high suspicion” of having COVID-19, they will be tested upon arrival, she said.
“What we need to understand is our principle of isolation first. As long as we isolate them, even though they are positive, we are assured that the disease is confined to that room and will not spread,” said Vergeire.
The resolution states that during quarantine, there will be no “cavorting” among travelers, and that they will stay in separate rooms, she said.
Nationwide saliva test
Philippine Red Cross chairman Senator Richard Gordon has disclosed they are targeting a nationwide roll out by February 1 of the saliva RT-PCR test that DOH approved last week.
Following the DOH’s approval of the use of saliva as an alternative specimen to the nasopharyngeal swab for RT-PCR testing in PRC’s laboratories, the PRC officially launched the new system last Monday.
“Our goal is to go nationwide by Feb. 1. Today, we opened our machines in Manila and Mandaluyong for a saliva test,” the PRC chief said.
Gordon also cautioned that testing was still very important even when the national vaccination program is rolled out since an inoculated person could still be a carrier and could be infectious.
Medical experts said studies have shown that the COVID vaccine inhibits progression to a severe case of the disease for an inoculated individual. However, there is no evidence that it could inhibit transmission to another individual.
The PRC saliva RT-PCR test uses the same system as the system previously used with the nasopharyngeal swab samples, the only difference being the method of collection of the sample specimen.
Instead of having a swab inserted into one’s nostrils and throat, one may now simply deposit 1.5 ml to 2 ml of saliva through a straw into a container.
Meanwhile, a health expert said if President Rodrigo Duterte would take COVID-19 shots in the rear, it should work.
“Any muscle should be fine. Any big muscle. Whether it’s the arm or the butt, it should work,” Dr. Edsel Salvaña, member of the technical advisory group that advises the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), told ANC.
However, he noted that those who have been inoculated in the US got it in the arm or deltoid.
“Theoretically, you can use it on the butt. But unless there’s some reason you have little muscle on the arm, the arm is fine,” he said.
Salvaña, also the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, said the vaccines were developed “ in such a way you want to put it in an area where the body can recognize them and have a good immune response.”
The Department of Health said Tuesday they agreed with President Duterte the families of soldiers and healthcare workers should be on the list of potential early recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, the DOH would still have to follow the priority list.
“Yes, we agree with the president that the families of health workers and the soldiers will be included but this is after we vaccinate the soldiers and the health workers,” Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabutaje said in a virtual forum.
“They will be provided but they will come at a later time,” Cabutaje said.
Further, Cabutaje said some of the family members of the soldiers and health workers might already be included in the priority sectors since some of them might be senior citizens or part of the indigent population.
Earlier, Duterte said he would seek free COVID-19 vaccinations for servicemen’s families.
The President has repeatedly said state security forces would be among the first who would receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.
The Philippines had allocated P73.2 billion for the procurement of the vaccines, with P40 billion coming from multilateral agencies, P20 billion from domestic sources, and P13.2 billion from bilateral agreements.
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