MANILA - The novel coronavirus has so far infected 3,018 people in the Philippines.
It is a relatively small figure compared to other countries, but the health department has warned a rapid rise in cases after the Philippine government increased its testing capacity.
To help the public respond to the pandemic, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire answers some questions on the highly-contagious disease.
Can you catch the coronavirus twice?
The health official said they do not have scientific evidence yet about possible reinfection of the disease, but reports in Japan said a recovered coronavirus patient tested positive again for COVID-19.
Can virgin coconut oil be used as treatment for coronavirus infection?
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is conducting tests on virgin coconut oil as potential treatment of the novel coronavirus, Vergerie said.
How can seniors strengthen their immune system?
The World Health Organization said the elderly and those suffering from underlying conditions appeared to develop serious illness of COVID-19 more often than others.
Vergerie said older people could boost their immune system by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. They must have a regular physical activity and take supplements such as vitamin C and zinc.
Does Philippines have enough ventilators to cope with the coronavirus pandemic?
"Right now, it's still enough. It's sufficient," the health official told radio DZMM.
Ventilators are mechanical breathing devices used for patients with severe cases of the novel coronavirus.
How does the Department of Health (DOH) determine if a patient has recovered from the virus?
As of Friday, some 52 out of 3,018 cases have recovered from COVID-19 in the Philippines.
At the onset of the crisis, a patient must have 2 negative test results before health experts can say he or she has been cleared of the strain, Vergerie said.
The health ministry, however, changed its protocols. As long as the patient is not showing any symptoms, he or she can be given a clean bill of health.
However, the recovered patient will still have to undergo an additional 14-day quarantine as a precautionary measure, Vergerie added.
Should healthy people use a mask when going out?
Due to reports of sustained community transmission of COVID-19, everyone is encouraged to wear a mask in public, she said.
What is the treatment for the coronavirus disease?
The health department has issued a guideline on the use of off-label drugs such as chloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients.
Vergerie reiterated these drugs are used with the guidance of medical professionals.
The Philippines is also joining the World Health Organization’s multi-country clinical trials in search for an effective COVID-19 treatment.
Among the drugs that will be included in the trial are (1) remdesivir, (2) lopinavir and ritonavir combined, (3) two drugs plus interferon beta, and (4) chloroquine.
Can coronavirus be spread through talking?
An infected patient may also spread the novel coronavirus through talking, Vergerie said.
She reminded the public to observe physical distancing or keeping meters away from other people.
Can coronavirus be transmitted through grocery items?
Grocery shopping was the last thing that some COVID-19 patients did before they were confirmed to have contracted the disease, Vergerie said.
Since infected droplets may persist on surfaces, transmission via grocery items may be possible, she said.
She urged the public to wash their hands after unpacking groceries.