World News

COVID-19 cases near 270,000; new test rules for tourists eyed

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported 4,699 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections on Monday, bringing the total to 265,888.

The death toll rose by 259 to 4,630, while recoveries increased by 249 to 207,504, it said in a bulletin.

There were 53,754 active cases, 88.4% of which were mild, 8.2% did not show symptoms, 1.3% were severe and 2.1% were critical, it said.

Metro Manila had the highest new cases with 1,498, followed by Cavite with 221, Bataan with 198, Bulacan with 185 and Batangas with 176, the agency said.

Most of the newly reported deaths came from Metro Manila with 154, followed by Central Visayas with 55, the Calabarzon region with 28, Eastern Visayas with, and the Bicol region with three. Three migrant Filipinos also died.

Central Luzon, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) each reported two deaths. Western Visayas, the Cordillera Administrative Region and Caraga region reported one death each. The newly reported deaths occurred from April to September, DoH said.

The country’s death rate for the coronavirus stood at 1.74%, lower than 3.16% worldwide. The infection rate was at 10.56%, higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) less than 5% benchmark.

It now takes 10.71 days for cases to double and 15.36 days for deaths to double, DoH said. More than 2.9 million people have been tested  for COVID-19, it added.

Also on Monday, Health authorities said they would change the rules on COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for tourists after the World Health Organization discouraged their use at airports and other points of entry.

“We will again undergo this series of consultations and most specifically we need to present again to the Inter-Agency Task Force this revised version as a result of these recommendations coming from WHO,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing.

The government earlier recommended the use of rapid antigen tests for tourists, but DoH must now revisit this after the WHO guidelines, she said.

WHO on Sept. 11 said it does not recommend rapid antigen tests for border screening because the prevalence of the coronavirus is “highly variable” among travelers. “Positive and negative tests would require confirmatory testing” for decision-making, it said.

Ms. Vergeire said further study was needed because there is evidence that rapid antigen tests could be done with conditions.

She said DoH would probably present its recommendations by Thursday at the latest so the new guidelines could be issued next week.

Presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque last week said the government allows the use of rapid antigen tests for domestic tourists without symptoms as a pre-boarding requirement. — VMMV

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