By Betheena Unite
Ten more cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were confirmed by the Department of Health Monday afternoon, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 20.
The doubling of the number of confirmed cases in the country was reported within a day after an “intensified surveillance effort” made by the health agency, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.
“All test results from the new cases were released today (Monday) after samples were collected on March 6, 7, and 8. The Epidemiology Bureau is currently conducting comprehensive contact tracing for these cases,” the department said.
While confirmed cases in the country doubled within a day, the DOH said they could not declare a community transmission but are not dismissing its possibility.
“Hindi pa tayo nagko-consider na may community transmission. Unang-una, kailagan natin ng kumpletong impormasyon para masabi natin kung tayo may community transmission (We are not yet considering that there is community transmission. First, we need to complete the information to determine if there is a community transmission),” Vergeire said.
The health official said the main determinant to declare that there is a community transmission “is when cases are not linked to each other.
“Kaya nga inaalam natin lahat itong mga kaso ngayon, para makita natin kung may (That’s why we are looking if there are) linkages between or among these positive cases that we have,” the health official said.
“Once we find and analyze the information, once we see that there is even a single case with no link to these 20 cases, then we can already — this will trigger the declaration of sustained community transmission,” she added.
A “sustained community transmission,” she said, will also trigger the raising of Code Red Sublevel 1 Alert to 2, which can result in the lockdown of a certain place.
The health official said that while the country is now in a stage where a local transmission is recorded on Patient No. 5 with no travel history, the Philippines is “transitioning into having home quarantine for individuals, especially with mild cases, to avoid a huge a number of patients in quarantine facilities.”
The DOH also ensured that the country has enough existing facilities for isolation of patients. Contact tracing on the new cases was launched Monday after the new cases were confirmed at lunchtime.
Vergeire said Patient No. 4 is now in stable condition. Patient No. 5 is in “stable but guarded” condition, while Patient No. 6 is also stable. All four cases reported on Sunday “are stable and admitted at the different hospitals” identified earlier.
Patient No. 7 is a 38-year-old Taiwanese male who had no history of travel. He is now in stable condition at the Makati Medical Center.
Patient no. 8 is a 32-year-old Filipino who traveled in Japan. He is now in stable condition at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig.
Patient no. 9 is an 86-year-old American male who had travel history to the U.S.A. and Korea. He is currently at the intensive care unit of The Medical City.
Patient No. 10 is a 57-year-old Filipino with no travel history. He is under investigation at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.
Patient No. 11 is a 72-year-old Filipino with no travel history. He is now at the Medical City for validation.
Patient No. 12 is a 56-year-old Filipino with travel history to the United Arab Emirates. He is admitted at the Makati Medical Center for validation.
Patient No. 13 is a 34-year-old Filipino who traveled to Australia. He is also under validation at the Makati Medical Center.
Patient No. 14 is a 46-year-old Filipino with no travel history. He is now under validation at the Makati Medical Center.
Patient No. 15 is a 24-year-old Filipino whose travel history is still being determined. He is also at the Makati Medical Center for validation.
Patient No. 16 is a 70-year-old Filipino with exposure to a known COVID-19 case. He is admitted at the UniHealth Paranaque Hospital for validation.
Patient No. 17 is a 69-year-old Filipina also with exposure to a known COVID-19 case and is now at the UniHealth Paranaque Hospital for validation.
Patient No. 18 is a 41-year-old Filipino who traveled to Taiwan and is now under validation at the Tricity Medical Center.
Patient no. 19 is a 46-year-old Filipina who had no travel history. She is now under investigation and validation at the Tricity Medical Center.
Patient no. 20 is a 48-year-old Filipino who traveled to Japan. He is now at the RITM for validation.
All 10 new cases were confirmed positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
As of 12 p.m. Monday, the Health department has identified 468 contacts of Patients 4 to 10, of whom 113 have already been assessed — 107 interviewed contacts have been placed under home quarantine while six have been categorized as patients under investigation and placed under isolation in various facilities.
The DOH urged all individuals who will be contacted by surveillance teams to fully cooperate in the investigation and contact tracing activities.
“In light of the new cases, we reiterate that the best way to prevent getting infected is to practice personal preventive measures such as proper hand hygiene, social distancing, and cough etiquette.
“As much as possible let us also refrain from visiting public places and/or attending mass gatherings. We should continue to be vigilant, and I call on everyone to cooperate with DOH for us to hurdle through this crisis together,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement read by Vergeire.