Ramped-up testing in Philippines to find up to 15k unknown infections
MANILA The Philippines introduced a more aggressive testing programme for the coronavirus yesterday, to locate what it said could be as many as 15,000 unknown infections, despite having implemented some of Asia's strictest and earliest lockdown measures.
The authorities have targeted several phases of ramped-up testing, starting yesterday with 8,000 people working at or admitted to Manila hospitals that were treating patients of Covid-19, which has so far infected 5,223 people l and killed 335 in the country.
Though the Philippines has South-east Asia's highest number of infections and nearly 40 per cent of its known fatalities, the government believes its swift move to close borders and put half its population under home quarantine may have averted a far greater toll and a healthcare disaster.
The former military chief in charge of the national coronavirus task force said yesterday that modelling suggested 75 per cent of infections - or 15,000 people - had yet to be detected.
"Our strategy is Metro Manila first because this is the epicentre," Mr Carlito Galvez Jr said on radio. "When we test Manila, we can win this battle against Covid-19."
The government has been criticised for being too slow with testing, but it has accelerated since the start of April due to increases in test kits and laboratory capacity. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday approved the procurement of an additional 900,000 kits, on top of 100,000 now in use.
Indonesia yesterday reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths with 60 new fatalities, taking the total to 459, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.
He confirmed 282 new infections, taking the total in the South-east Asian country to 4,839. More than 33,600 tests have been performed, Mr Yurianto added.
Malaysia yesterday recorded 170 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 4,987.
The country, which entered its 28th day of the movement control order (MCO) yesterday, also reported five new deaths to bring death toll to 82.
The MCO has been extended into a third phase from today and is scheduled to end on April 28. - REUTERS, THE STAR