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Philippines records 2 new COVID-19 cases

The Philippines has recorded two more cases of novel coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19), bringing the total number to five, the Department of Health (DOH) announced Friday.

At a press briefing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that one of the two new cases was a 48-year-old Filipino male with a travel history from Japan.

"The patient returned to the Philippines last February 25 and experienced chills and fever beginning March 3. The patient sought medical consultation at a hospital and samples were collected for testing," Duque said.

He was confirmed to have COVID-19 on March 5.

The fifth case was a 62-year-old Filipino male in San Juan City with no travel history abroad but has frequently visited a Muslim prayer hall and has hypertension and diabetes.

"The patient sought medical consultation at a hospital in Metro Manila last March 1 and was admitted with severe pneumonia. Specimen collected on March 4 tested positive for COVID-19 on March 5," Duque said.

In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintained that the government is prepared to respond to such development.

"There is no need for alarm or worry because we are ready. From the very start we already said that," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.

Panelo said protocols are already in place, adding President Rodrigo Duterte would definitely grant the request of the Department of Health (DOH) for a P2-billion supplemental budget intended for coronavirus response.

Previous cases

Prior to the announcement of the two new cases, there have been three confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, all tourists from China who arrived in January.

Two of them have recovered and one died.

Both the fourth and fifth cases are currently admitted at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa.

The 48-year-old patient, a lawyer, is in stable condition but the 62-year-old is suffering from severe pneumonia.

The DOH, in coordination with the Philippine National Police and airline companies, launched contact tracing efforts for those whom they have possibly interacted with to prevent local transmission of the virus.

'Premature to declare local transmission'

Despite the development, Duque said that it is still premature to say that there is already local transmission in the Philippines.

"The absence of travel is a clear indication that this is a local case,"  Duque said, referring to the fifth case.

"There is no transmission to speak of as of yet because we only have one. That's why we're doing contact tracing," he added.

According to Duque, local transmission can only be declared if there is more than one positive case who did not travel abroad.

World Health Organization country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe also stressed that local transmission is different from community transmission.

"Local transmission [means] transmission in a local geographical setting. Community transmission means widespread transmission beyond the defined geographical area," he said.

The infective rate of COVID-19 is 1:3.5, meaning an infected person can transmit the virus to up to three people, according to Abeyasinghe. — KBK/MDM/RSJ, GMA News