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Virus cases nearing 530,000 with 10,807 deaths

By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Health reported 1,658 coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to 527,272.

The death toll rose to 10,807 after 58 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 27 to 487,574, it said in a bulletin.

There were 28,891 active cases, 88.5% of which were mild, 5.3% did not show symptoms, 3% were critical, 2.7% were severe and 0.56% were moderate.

DoH said four duplicates had been removed from the tally. Five laboratories failed to submit their data on Jan. 31.

About 7.4 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Jan. 30, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened more than 103.6 million and killed about 2.2 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 75.2 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said the global shortage of reagents, a substance used for virus analysis, delayed local genome sequencing to detect the more contagious coronavirus strain.

The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) was now using a smaller machine that can only test 48 samples a week, down from 750, she told an online news briefing.

“The global shortage has affected this process,” she said, adding that the government would increase its orders for reagents to six months worth of supply instead of the usual two three months.

“We can be assured that for the next six months we will have this reagent so we can continue processing the sequencing,” she said.

Ms. Vergeire said they would fast-track the release of reagents from the Bureau of Customs (BoC) that arrived on Sunday night, while the sequencing kits were expected to arrive as early as Wednesday.

The DoH at the weekend said 48 coronavirus-positive samples tested by the center were negative for the new variant. This center is set to sequence 48 more samples this week.

Also on Monday, Ms. Vergeire said the case of the patient from Quezon City who got infected with the more contagious variant first detected in the United Kingdom had been closed after people he got close contact with were traced and tested.

“The results of the variant or the genome sequencing were all negative,” she said.

The 29-year-old male Filipino arrived in the Philippines from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Jan. 7 and had tested positive for the more contagious coronavirus strain.

The Quezon City government said on Jan. 22 he had since recovered and tested negative for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus. He would be monitored for at least two more weeks, it said.

At least 14 of his close contacts including his mother and a health worker who attended to him had tested positive for the coronavirus, DoH said on Jan. 22.

Eight of his co-passengers had tested positive upon arrival. Four others including his girlfriend who accompanied him initially tested negative upon arrival but were found to have been infected after swabbing.

At least 17 people in the Philippines have been infected with the new strain, 12 of whom came from Bontoc, Mountain Province in northern Philippines.

Meanwhile, DoH said it had traced 447 people in the Cordillera Administrative Region for further testing.

Of the total, 410 came from Bontoc, where 83 people had tested positive for the coronavirus, including the 12 people who had the UK virus strain. DoH said 97 had tested negative, 42 had pending results and 88 were yet to be tested.

In nearby La Trinidad, Benguet province, 37 contacts of the patient with the more contagious variant have been identified, six of whom were positive for COVID-19 and 14 were negative. The test results of 14 others were pending, while the rest were yet to be tested.

DoH said eight specimens from Bontoc and two from La Trinidad had been sent for genome sequencing.

The Health department said last month a returning overseas Filipino worker from the UK was the source of the coronavirus infections in Bontoc.

He tested negative upon arrival on Dec. 11 but was found to have been positive when he was tested a few weeks later after complaining of abdominal pains. However, the traveler was negative for the more contagious strain.

DoH said health authorities were conducting “backward tracing exposures” to identify other possible sources of infection.

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