UP National Institutes of Health’s test kits for nCoV set for DOH validation

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 5, 2020   •   697

The UP National Institutes of Health has developed test kits for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) which is set for the verification of the Department of Health (DOH) next week.

UP scientist Raul Destura, during the Senate inquiry on Tuesday (February 4), said the test kits would aid the DOH in confirming more 2019-nCoV cases in the country. 

“This was developed two weeks ago immediately after they released the whole genome sequence of the virus,” he said. “Hopefully by next week, it would be ready for the DOH to verify and validate before they give their recommendation for use in the country.”

The Health Department is currently using primers they acquired from Japan for confirmatory tests which usually takes within 48 hours for the results to be determined.

“It’s like a code that—more or less, it will guide you to identify [the virus]. ‘This is exactly the virus that’s similar to the one in Wuhan’,” Duque said.

However, Duque said the RNA primer is not yet commercially available which makes it difficult for the Health Department to acquire big batches.—AAC

Relaxed travel restrictions still pose health risks—UP OCTA Research

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 23, 2020

Experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) OCTA Research team said relaxed travel restrictions may still pose health risks.

Dr. Guido David, team member of the UP OCTA Research, said it is too early for the country to accept inbound travels and that further review is needed to avoid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) transmission.

“There’s a surge happening right now in Europe so if we were not careful, maraming cases [there are a lot of cases] outside the Philippine, in Europe and certain parts of the world, kasama pa rin diyan iyong sa (these includes) the United States and India. So we have to be careful about letting people,” he said.

David also said despite the drop of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, there is still a possibility for cases to increase if no safety measures is implemented.

“We’re also a bit worried because the rate of decrease in NCR is not that low anymore. It’s very slow. So it could be, the trend might be reversing anytime,” he added.

Services of Red Cross should also resume first, according to David, because its testing capacity covers 1/4 of the total testing capacity of the country. He also reiterated the need for the public to cooperate in order to fight against the virus.

“The public should be aware that the virus is still here. That the pandemic is not yet over. So if they’re loosening restrictions, responsibility is in the public in deciding whether or not they want to go out,” he said. -AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda).

UP research team projects 100,000 COVID-19 cases in PH by end of August

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 7, 2020

The University of the Philippines (UP) OCTA Research forecasts, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines to reach more than 100,000 by the end of August.

According to the research team, infection rate of COVID-19 cases in the country increased after recording 1.6 R0 during the general community quarantine (GCQ). The said number indicates that one infected individual can infect at least one other individual.

UP OCTA Research member and UP Mathematics professor Dr. Guido David said the projection for July is 60,000 to 70,000. He also reported that the R0 in the Philippines has increased.

“Kasi bumibilis ang transmissions natin during ECQ [Enhanced Community Quarantine] nasa 1 na iyong R-0 natin. During MECQ [Modified Enhanced Communnity Quarantine] medyo tumaas na siya nasa 1.1 to 1.2 and right now, nasa 1.6 na siya sa Philippines, (Because transmissions increased during the ECQ, our R-0 was at 1. During the MECQ, it increased to 1.1 to 1.2 and right now it is at 1.6),” he said.

David clarified, the numbers are only projections and not predictions which aim to alert the public to become more strict in following health and safety protocols.

The surge of cases, David added, can be avoided if the government re-evaluates health protocols for offices, gyms, including mass or religious gatherings and mass transportation.

“Right now especially since we have a lot of cases already, this could be problematic. The trajectory shows that the solutions that we have are not working. So we have to come up with better solutions for mass transport, mass transit and office infections,” he said.

The research group also said contact tracing would be difficult due to the number of people leaving their houses after the relaxation of community quarantine restrictions.

“If they go to a mall, if they go to a religious gathering and they have the virus, they don’t show the symptoms. Hindi natin siya ma-differentiate (we cannot differentiate them) from other people and possibly infect other people,” David said.

The group recommends that the government conduct randomized testing of up to 20,000 per day.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) advised the public to be responsible in leaving the house and to only do so if it is necessary.

“It can spread faster and overwhelm our healthcare system if we don’t double our control efforts and so it can lead to a higher number of overall deaths if we do not properly manage the number of infections. The virus leveled up. We have to level up as well, ” the DOH said in a statement. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Brazil’s Bolsonaro tested again for novel coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 7, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday (July 6) he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus, after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever.

Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs “clean.”

CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday.

The right-wing populist has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended multiple events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro previously tested negative for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate in March. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

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