COVID cases up to 142

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    TWO more persons have tested positive for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing the country’s total to 142 yesterday, according to the Department of Health.

    The two cases involve a 63-year-old male and a 50-year-old male tested at the Medical City and the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit-National Capital Region, respectively.

    The number of deaths remained at 12 as reported by the DOH late Sunday night.

    The latest fatality, identified as Patient 12, was a 56-year-old Filipino male from Manila confined at the Makati Medical Center who had a history of close contact with other COVID-19 cases.

    The patient began experiencing symptoms of fever and cough last February 29. He was admitted to the Makati Medical Center on March 7, and was confirmed positive for COVID-19 on March 9.

    The DOH also reported that another patient has recovered from the virus, a 46-year-old male from Pasay City who has no travel history and no known exposure to confirmed COVID cases.

    While COVID-19 cases continue to spike, the Department of Health has decided to limit the testing of persons under investigation (PUIs).

    The DOH said PUIs with mild symptoms, has no pre-existing medical conditions, and non-elderly no longer need to be tested for the virus and are merely advised to undergo home quarantine.

    “Do not immediately go to hospitals because it might even cause transmission of the disease,” DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a television interview.

    Only those with severe symptoms, has comorbidity, and elderly must be tested for COVID-19 in Level 2 or 3 medical facilities, the DOH said.

    Considered as PUIs are persons with acute respiratory illness, fever of 38°C and/or cough or shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms; traveled to or resided in a country/area reporting local transmission of COVID-19; and close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

    In the past, all PUIs were automatically tested for COVID-19 and admitted for isolation and case management in medical facilities.

    The DOH has also prohibited private and public hospitals from releasing any information related to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases to the public.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said this is to prevent any confusion among the public on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.

    Over 400 Filipinos from the coronavirus-hit MV Grand Princess cruise ship were repatriated to the country early Monday morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

    The chartered flight carrying the 444 Filipinos – 438 crew members and six passengers – from San Francisco, California landed at the Haribon hangar of the Clark Air Base at around 2:15 a.m.

    From the hangar, they were transported by chartered buses to the Athletes Village at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac where they will undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

    DFA spokesman Eduardo Menez said none of the repatriates showed symptoms of the coronavirus during screening, which included thermal scanning and other diagnostics conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services before their departure.

    The group is the third batch of Filipinos repatriated by the DFA from COVID-19 affected areas, the first being Filipinos from the coronavirus-epicenter of Wuhan city in China and the second batch from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

    Thirteen Filipino crew members of the Grand Princess who tested positive for the virus have been brought to a medical facility for treatment.

    The DFA said 78 more Filipino crew members volunteered to stay to help man the cruise ship while three Filipino guests who are California residents disembarked.

    The Philippine Embassy in Qatar suspended its visa services starting Monday, March 16, due to the threat posed by the Coronavirus Disease.

    “For all other consular matters, such as passport issuance and renewal, notarization and authentication, and concerns related to civil registration, the embassy shall continue its usual services,” the embassy said.

    The embassy also announced that Qatari authorities will stop all incoming flights to Doha, Qatar starting Wednesday night (March 18) for a period of 14 days,

    Qatar had earlier imposed a ban on travelers coming from the Philippines and more than a dozen other countries where there are COVID-19 cases.

    The Philippines has lifted the travel ban it imposed on mainland China, except Hubei province where Wuhan city, the epicenter of the COVID outbreak, is located, the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

    The DFA said the decision to lift the ban imposed last month was adopted in a resolution by the Inter-Agency Task Force for Infectious Diseases last March 12.

    Covered by the lifting of the travel ban are returning OFWs who can present valid visas and or work permit, overseas employment certificate, notarized declaration of their knowledge and understanding of the risks, and other relevant documents pertaining to their current deployment in mainland China as may be required by immigration authorities.

    Also covered are Filipinos with permanent resident visas and Filipino government officials travelling to mainland China on official duty.