Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has gone on a 14-day self-quarantine since Wednesday, the Department of Health (DOH) revealed, as the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) positive cases soared to 217 with 15 new cases, while deaths remained at 17 and recoveries rose to 8.
Duque, 63, has undergone tests for COVID-19. The results of the teats are expected to come out within the next 2 to 3 days.
Duque, who is hypertensive and asthmatic, has set up work from home arrangements to continue work.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Duque, who is asymptomatic, is currently on home quarantine.
“He has already been tested for COVID 19 test as he is Asthmatic and Hypertensive. He is now doing work from home,” Vergeire said.
As Department of Health (DOH) secretary, Duque sits as chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) which was convened by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the increase in the number of persons infected by COVID-19.
She said the office of Duque has been disinfected to ensure the safety of health employees.
Vergeire earlier confirmed that a DOH director from its central office in Mandaluyong City had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“Offices have been disinfected and close contacts informed so that they can immediately undergo home quarantine and strict monitoring,” she said.
In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, who was tested positive for COVID-19, said he would no longer subject himself to a retest as mentioned by Duque.
“There’s a lot of buzz on the news of Duque’s statement that I may be false positive and that I may need another test. That, sir may not be necessary at all,” said Zubiri, who went on home quarantine.
“With all due respect to our dear Secretary, I feel that the remaining available testing kits should be utilized by those who need them the most, like frontline medical personnel and symptomatic patients especially the elderly,” he also said.
In his case, Zubiri said he feels that the first and only test he had was accurate as he remembered having a slight fever Wednesday last week.
By Monday, Zubiri recalled he was asymptomatic already.
The senator said it’s possible that he was beating the virus so he will just continue his Isolation for another eight days to complete the protocol.
“Whatever test that will be done on me later on will be from the 10,000 kits our private sector group Art Rocks is paying for and bringing in from Korea as donations to frontline hospitals and not from government sources.
“I would like to issue this as my official statement on the matter. Thank you and stay safe everyone,” stressed Zubiri.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the most commonly reported symptoms are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.
It also said eight in ten, or around 80 percent, of infected patients experience “mild illness” and eventually recover from COVID-19. Some 14 percent experience severe illness while 5 percent were critically ill.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released on Thursday Circular No. 2020-006 entitled, “Guidance for Applications and Transactions at the Food and Drug Administration in light of the Community Quarantine Declaration.”
The FDA is an attached agency of the DOH.
FDA Director General Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the agency shall adopt alternative work arrangements and function with limited workforce to ensure continuity of government service during this time while protecting FDA employees.
Initial applications for License to Operate (LTO), Certificate of Product Registration (CPR)/ Certificate of Product Notification (CPN) will still be processed online thru the FDA ePortal System.
However, he said High Priority will be given to establishments involved in diagnosis, treatment, mitigation, prevention of COVID- 19 and manufacture or distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential medicines.
“There will be corresponding adjustments on the date of validity for LTO/CPR/GMP Renewal application and Inspection which are fair to manufacturers and establishments” he said.
All manufacturers, traders, and distributors with products containing 70% alcohol and below used as antiseptic, antibacterial, and sanitizer must secure an LTO and CPN from the FDA Center for Cosmetics Regulation and Research (CCRR).
“We shall be temporarily suspending all initial CPR applications starting March 17- May 17 2020, except for antivirals, antibiotics, and vaccines as well as drugs used for emergency management of patients with COVID-19, so as not to paralyze our current health needs” DG Domingo added.
During these challenging times, he vowed that the FDA will continue to perform its mandate of ensuring the public health safety without compromising service delivery.
“We value our personnel, employees, and stakeholders and we shall continue to assist the government in its response to this pandemic” Domingo said./Stacy Ang