Oops! DOH reports COVID-19 cases at 35, later corrects figure to 33

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2020 02:57 PM | Updated as of Mar 10 2020 06:15 PM

A worker uses a mist cannon to apply disinfectant to the San Juan National High School grounds on Monday to control the spread of COVID-19. The 5th person in the Philippines infected with the virus was reported to have frequented a prayer hall inside a shopping complex in the city, prompting the local government to implement preventive measures. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday reported that the Philippines had 11 new cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), raising the total to 35, but corrected itself less than two hours later citing an error in the tally. 

In a Facebook post just before 3 p.m., the DOH initially said there were 11 additional cases of the new coronavirus in the country. 

But in a press conference at 4:30 p.m., Assistant Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was 33, as 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. 

"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. 

"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. 

She said the Facebook post announcing the 35 cases was taken down. 

"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. 

The number of COVID-19 cases in the country started increasing on Sunday when the DOH announced three new cases, from only three since early February. Four more cases followed on Monday. Most of the cases announced before Tuesday are in Metro Manila.

COVID-19 may be fatal for the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with underlying medical condition but 80 percent of cases globally showed a high chance of recovery "without needing special treatment," according to the World Health Organization. 

WHO said COVID-19 symptoms include fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. The new respiratory disease has left 3,800 dead and affected 110,000 worldwide. 

DOH earlier said that it has deployed additional surveillance teams to conduct contact tracing. Contacts who need to be interviewed are those who lived or traveled with the positive cases.

As of Tuesday, the agency’s NCOVtracker website lists 44 patients under investigation admitted to hospitals. These are patients who have symptoms of respiratory illness and have traveled recently or were in contact with positive cases of COVID-19, a new strain of coronavirus that started in China.

Meanwhile, there are more than 80 Filipinos abroad who tested positive for COVID-19. Many of them are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan and have already recovered.

President Rodrigo Duterte said it was too early for the government to lock down Metro Manila due to the coronavirus outbreak as rge Philippines has “not reached that kind of contamination.”

Duterte explained that the local transmission of the disease does not justify a regional lockdown, citing economic losses.

“We have not reached that kind of contamination. Iisa-isa lang. With this transmission, you want to close down the economy at this time?” the President said during a late-night press briefing in Malacañang on Monday. 

“There will be a time I suppose. I hope not. I hope God will have mercy on our --- the Filipino people. There might be a time. Pero at this time, you want me to… It’s too early,” he said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said it might be "premature" to place Metro Manila on lockdown due to the virus threat even as the government sought to control the local transmission of the disease.

Health authorities still have to wait for evidence of "sustained community transmission" before the government declares a lockdown, Duque told reporters in Malacañang. - With reports from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News