At a press conference, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, however, that 16 patients died, raising the death toll to 623.
She noted that the total number of confirmed cases rose to 9,485 after 262 new cases were reported to the DOH. Of these new cases, 122 came from the National Capital Region (NCR) while 88 were from Region 7.
As this developed, Vergeire said the COVID-19 cases in the country could have come from Japan, Australia, and Shanghai in China, based on initial results of the genome sequencing conducted by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC).
But the official clarified more sequencing of samples must be performed to concretely establish the “source, spread and evolution or changes” of the virus in the Philippines.
On April 30, the PCG, through its Core Facility for Bioinformatics, released six “viral genome sequences” of SARS-CoV-2 from COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila between March 22 and 28.
The PGC posted on its website that all of the cases had no history of travel abroad.
However, two of the sequences showed that the “community-acquired infections cluster closely with samples collected from Japan and Australia from February 15 to March 14, 2020.”
On the other hand, four cases “cluster closely with a sample collected from Shanghai, China on February 4, 2020.”
Vergeire also announced that the Bases Conversion and Development Authority will open four “mega-swabbing centers” in Metro Manila and Bulacan next week to strengthen the country’s testing capacity.
They will be located at the Philippine Sports Stadium inside the Philippine Arena, for northern sector; Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, for southern sector; Enderun Colleges in Taguig City, for eastern sector and Palacio de Maynila Tent on Roxas Boulevard, for western sector.
She added that with the centers capable of performing some 5,000 tests per day, they are hopeful of reaching the target of 30,000 per day by May 30.
To protect health care workers from the virus, she said the Department of Science and Technology has manufactured 132 specimen collection booths distributed among 80 health care facilities nationwide.
She added they have also dispatched more laboratory encoders to speed up the processing and documentation of test results. – Jose Rodel Clapano