DOH clarifies: 33 confirmed COVID-19 cases, not 35; earlier total included 2 repeat tests

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2020 04:57 PM | Updated as of Mar 10 2020 06:44 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday clarified that the country has a total of 33 cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), not 35 as it had reported in a social media post. 

In a press conference, Assistant Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the 11 cases reported as new on Tuesday included two repeat tests. 

Upon verification, she said only 9 were new cases, and 2 were repeat tests for patients 7 and 8. 

"This now we are officially saying, we have new 9 cases, hindi po (not) 11. Siyam lang po (just 9), total of 33 cases now for the Philippines of COVID-19," Vergeire said. 

"We'd like to apologize for that mistake because earlier than that time, there was this post coming from the health emergency meeting coming from the World Health Organization wherein they initially reported the 35 cases," she said. 

As the DOH was supposed to be the first agency tasked to release COVID-19 updates, it had to "issue this statement" and WHO's count "is what we have also," she said. 

"But upon verification now that we were trying to analyze the numbers and correlating it with the list of patients we have, we found that the number that was initially reported to us were number of samples, these 11," Vergeire explained. 

"And while we did our validation, we only found 9 new cases," she said. 

Vergeire assured the public that the DOH Epidemiology Bureau is “conducting comprehensive contact tracing” for all cases.

The 13 latest cases- including 9 announced today and 4 announced by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night- are now in hospitals and being monitored. 

The hospitals include The Medical City in Ortigas, Pasig, Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan, and Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium in Tala, Caloocan City.

Two of them are among the more than 400 repatriates from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan over COVID-19 cases. Seven do not have history of travel, three have known contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, and one had recently traveled to Switzerland.

While some of them were reported asymptomatic, including the two repatriates who are quarantined at the New Clark City, Vergeire said they’ll have to check again because many Filipinos tend to dismiss mild symptoms.

Asked if the DOH already knows how the cases are linked, Vergeire said some of them are married couples, but they will also use gene sequencing to determine the “epidemiologic link” between the other cases.

Of the 33 total cases, four pairs are married couples, including the first two cases from Wuhan, China, the origin of the outbreak.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the Philippines under a state of public health emergency and suspended classes in Metro Manila this week amid the rapid rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, mostly in the capital region. 

The DOH is meanwhile on Code Red, Sublevel 1, placing manpower and resources on full deployment to respond to the outbreak. 

Asked why all of the cases are adults, Vergeire said it's because older people are more prone to illness. She said many also have pre-existing conditions.

Vergeire also clarified that none of the new cases announced this week have died. 

She said case number 5, a 62-year-old Filipino male from Cainta, Rizal, and case number nine, an 86-year-old American male, are being closely monitored because of their other illnesses.

One of the first three confirmed cases, a Chinese man from Wuhan who had traveled to the Philippines with his wife, was the first recorded death from the virus outside China.