ALMOST 600 new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were reported by the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday.
With 579 new infections, the total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 22,474.
Of the newly-reported cases, 331 are considered “fresh cases” or those whose test results were released within the last three days of the date of reporting, and 248 were “late cases” or those whose test results were released to a patient after more than four days.
The DOH also reported eight new fatalities, bringing the total to 1,011 deaths.
There were 107 more patients who recovered from COVID-19, or a total of 4,637 recoveries since February when the first case in the Philippines was reported.
The disease which first emerged in China late last year has spread to more than 200 countries and territories. It has infected almost 6.8 million persons globally and killed at least 397,000 individuals, according to data from the World Health Organization as of June 7.
The Department of Foreign Affairs reported 13 new COVID-19 cases, and a single fatality among Filipinos abroad.
The DFA said it received no report of new recovery from its diplomatic posts in 49 countries where 5,405 Filipinos have been infected with COVID-19 since its outbreak.
Of the 5,405 total number of infected Filipinos, 2,231 have recovered.
The Middle East/Africa still had the highest number of infected Filipinos at 3,368 cases with 125 deaths, followed by Europe with 852 cases and 91 deaths, and the Americas with 662 cases and 153 deaths.
The Asia and the Pacific regions registered 523 cases and two deaths.
The DFA said up to 35,000 more overseas Filipino workers are coming home in the next few weeks in addition to 36,731 who were earlier repatriated in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Undersecretary Sarah Arriola said the second wave of OFWs who are also trying to come home are former employees of cruise lines who lost their employment when the ships stopped operations due to the outbreak of the novel corona virus infections.
“As of June 7 …we have 36,731 OFWs who have returned to our country including 22,198 former sea-based workers mostly from cruise ships and 14,533 land-based workers. More of our sea-based workers presently in the Americas numbering around 31,000 to 35,000 who are also hoping to come home since the cruise ships stopped operating in March,” she said over public briefing “Laging Handa.”
The DFA said it is implementing procedures to “calibrate” the arrival of the OFWs in light of limited quarantine capacities.
On an optimistic note, she said land-based OFWs who have earlier signified their desire to return home have made a turnaround as their host countries have started opening up their economies.
“Now that some of the economies are opening up, like for example Dubai, our countrymen have also started finding employment. They no longer want to leave,” Arriola said.
Arriola stressed that the country’s 94 embassies and consular offices located all over the world have instructions to render assistance to all Filipinos whether documented or not.
“All Filipinos …documented or undocumented, we don’t care. If they come to us for help even for plane fare we extend assistance from our embassies and consulates. Once they are back on local soil, we transfer jurisdiction to the Department of Health and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration,“ she explained.
Arriola said the DFA is constantly making representations with foreign governments to ensure the health and security of employment of OFWS.
For former overseas workers who could no longer find employment abroad, she said the government has a re-integration program funded by OWWA to help them find other sources of income.
Fifteen inmates of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) have died of COVID-19, BuCor spokesman Gabriel Chaclag said.
Last week, the Department of Justice said 10 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) have died while 222 were infected and 31 have recovered.
The COVID-positive PDLs came from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City and the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong City.
It was at the CIW where the first confirmed case of the virus among PDLs were recorded.
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said of the 222 PDLs, 140 came from NBP and 82 from the CIW.
BuCor personnel were also not spared from the virus as Perete said 30 of them assigned at the NBP and 18 at the CIW also tested positive for the virus.
The BuCor’s five other penal farms and colonies in Palawan, Davao del Norte, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, Zamboanga City and Abuyog in Leyte remained COVID-free.
The BuCor has a 300-bed quarantine facility dubbed “Site Harry” located inside the NBP and constructed with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Newly-appointed Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said his priority would be to synchronize the DOH actions with that of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
“I think the most important right now is having very good coordination between the DOH and IATF to be able to respond to the needs and services of the community,” said Vega.
“There are many ways that I can address the coordination between what IATF wants and the DOH in terms of what should be delivered to the public,” he furthered.
Vega said he also intends to ensure that the deliverables and commitments provided under the Bayanihan Act, such as the benefits of medical frontliners, will be met.
The DOH has recently come under fire over its failure to immediately provide the financial compensation to healthcare workers, who succumbed to COVID-19.
Just last week, President Duterte expressed dismay over the delays in the provision of financial assistance to medical frontliners hit by the novel virus.
Subsequently, Malacañang announced the appointment of Vega, former head of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City, as the health undersecretary.
Asked if he is prepared to serve as DOH chief if the situation provides, Vega said he refuses to answer a hypothetical question.
“I don’t think I can answer it right now. It is too theoretical. I am just preparing myself for undersecretary. I cannot fathom being Secretary at this time,” said Vega.
To note, there have been calls for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to resign amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. – With Ashzel Hachero and Peter Tabingo