MANILA - The Philippines is expected to confirm more cases of the novel coronavirus despite the lockdown of its most populous island because of the arrival of new test kits and easier tracing of people who came in close contact with patients, the health department said Tuesday.
The agency recently received some 100,000 test kits, which had been hit by a global shortage. On Monday, authorities confirmed 82 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest daily increase so far, which took the nationwide total to 462.
"Ngayon pa lang natin nakamit iyong -- hindi pa masabing sapat -- pero at least maraming test kit. Siyempre kung marami kang mati-test, malamang mas marami kang makukuhang positibong kaso kaya tataas pa rin talaga iyan," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told DZMM.
"Hindi naman komo nag-lockdown tayo e tapos na lang, biglang mawawala," he added.
(We have just gotten -- we can't say enough -- but at least, many, test kits. Of course, if you can test a lot of people, you will likely get many positive cases so the tally will still increase. It doesn't mean that because we are under a lockdown, it's over, the cases will suddenly disappear.)
Duque also pointed out that the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, where the virus emerged late last year, was placed under lockdown on Jan. 23 and saw its peak of new cases about 3 weeks after, around Feb. 12 to 14.
"Malamang ganooon din ang mangyayari sa atin. magkakaroon din tayo ng ganoong pagtaas," said the Secretary.
(It's likely that the same thing will happen to us, we'll have a similar increase.)
President Rodrigo Duterte placed all households in Luzon -- home to half of the Philippines' population of 100 million -- under quarantine until April 12 to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has left 33 dead as of Monday.
The lockdown will allow authorities to track down individuals who had close contact with confirmed cases, said Duque.
"Mas madali mong ma-contact tracing na sila dahil nakatigil na sila sa kanilang tahanan, mas madaing puntahan," he said.
(Contact tracing is easier because they're confined to their homes, it's easier to reach them.)
Worldwide, the number of deaths due to COVID-19 soared past 15,000, with more than 341,000 people infected, according to a tally compiled by Agence France-Presse from official sources.
The pandemic is "accelerating", the World Health Organization said, adding it was still possible to "change the trajectory" of the outbreak.
Philippine lawmakers on Tuesday are set to submit to Malacanang a bill that would grant additional powers for Duterte to respond to the pandemic, and cash aid for health workers and indigent families.
With a report from Agence France-Presse