ALMOST 1,000 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases were reported yesterday by the Department of Health (DOH), bring the country’s total to over 36,000.
Of the 985 new cases, 643 are “fresh cases” or test results that were validated by the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau in the last three days while 342 are “late cases” or laboratory results that came out four days ago and were just recently validated by the agency.
The new 985 cases are among the highest reported by the DOH, with the highest – 1,150 cases – reported last June 23.
In all, COVID cases in the Philippines rose to 36,438, with 11 more patients dying, bringing to 1,255 the total number of deaths in the country.
The DOH also reported that 270 more patients have recovered, bringing to 9,956 the total number of patients who have survived the deadly virus.
The Department of Foreign Affairs reported 34 new confirmed cases among overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East as well as Asia, the Pacific and Europe, raising the total number of Filipinos infected with the virus in 59 countries to 8,467.
There were also 10 new recoveries and nine new deaths for a total of 5,091 and 547, respectively. The new recoveries and deaths all came from the Middle East.
The Middle East now has 6,195 cases and 287 deaths, followed by Europe with 984 cases and 94 deaths and the Americas with 686 cases and 164 deaths. Asia and the Pacific reported 598 cases and two deaths.
Meanwhile, Malacañang contested an observation of the World Health Organization (WHO) that the Philippines has the fastest-growing number of COVID-19 cases in the Western Pacific region, claiming it can only be considered the sixth in the region.
“Now, WHO said we are the fastest in terms of increasing cases in the Western Pacific Region. Is this true? We beg to disagree,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
He questioned the comparison of the Philippines to other countries with less population, claiming the more populated the country, the higher number of the possible cases can be expected.
He said if the WHO computed and divided the COVID-19 cases on a per million population basis, India would top the list with the Philippines sixth.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also downplayed the WHO data, saying the rise of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines was expected because the testing capacity of the country increased.
“But if we will look at the positivity rate, we are about five to six percent positivity rate, our target is to go to around three percent and probably to one percent,” Año said.
Citing figures from June 16 to 28, WHO said the Philippines recorded 9,655 COVID-19 cases, followed by Singapore with 2,610. Based on data during the past 30 days, WHO said the Philippines stood out.
Año said it is not fair for the country to be compared to Singapore “because Singapore is a very small country, and has (a) small population.”
“If we look at per population of 100,000, they have about 41 per 100,000 while we (have) about seven point something per 100,000. So we are still doing okay, even way below global average,” said Año.
Año said most of the COVID-19 cases in the country are from Central Visayas, National Capital Region and Eastern Visayas.
“But for the rest of the country, we are doing good. In fact, most of the country now are under MGCQ… with low risk, meaning to say they are near to new normal,” said Año.
Año said the Philippines is doing good compared to the US and Brazil in preventing the spread of the virus. He said that if the Philippines did not put Luzon on a lockdown months ago, “we might have an infection of about three million and about a death of 100,000 people.”
The Supreme Court is expected to deliberate today, Tuesday, the petition filed last April calling for the release of sick and elderly detainees on humanitarian grounds to prevent them from getting infected with COVID-19 in the country’s congested prison facilities.
The petition was supposed to be tackled last week during the en banc session of the justices but a court insider said they decided to deliberate today during their regular en banc session.
Among the 22 detainees who have signed the petition are National Democratic Front peace consultants Rey Claro Casambre, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Francisco Fernandez Jr.
They argued that given the congestion in the country’s prison facilities, they and other inmates – due to age and health factors – are vulnerable to the virus, adding they are not convinced the measures being implemented by authorities will spare them.
The Justice Department had earlier confirmed that 301 inmates in Bureau of Correction facilities had been infected with COVID-19 and that 16 of them have died.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology had also confirmed that more than 700 of its inmates had been infected.
Solicitor General Jose Calida has opposed the petition, saying that while there is indeed congestion in the prison facilities, it is not one of the grounds for their release.
Calida added the petitioners cannot be released on recognizance or bail since the cases they are facing, like murder and kidnapping, are non-bailable offenses and punishable with life imprisonment.
Despite the delay in the resolution of the petition, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said 22,522 inmates have been released since March this year either through bail, recognizance or dismissal of their cases. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes and Ashzel Hachero