Everything You Want to Know About Coronavirus in the Philippines, Answered

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines are now over 100, but many Filipinos are still in the dark about the details of the outbreak.
March 16, 2020, 11:21am
coronavirus situation philippines
Catholic faithfuls sit on chairs with yellow line tapes, to separate church goers from sitting close to each other, as part of social distancing at a church in Borongan town, Eastern Samar province, central Philippines on March 15, 2020. Photo by Alren BERONIO / AFP. 

The capital Manila and its surrounding cities are now on lockdown. Other provinces have also followed suit. As of writing, there were 140 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths in the country.

While President Rodrigo Duterte has addressed the epidemic in a press conference and the government continues to update statistics daily, many Filipinos are still in the dark about the details of the outbreak.

To help clear things up, VICE asked Filipino readers about what exactly they want to know more about. Below, are some of the frequently asked questions, with answers from official reports.

What is the fatality rate in the Philippines?

As of Monday, March 16, the total number of cases in the Philippines was 140, while deaths were recorded at 12. This means that the country had an 8.5 percent fatality rate. In comparison, the rate for all cases around the world was 3.8 percent.

How many patients in the Philippines have recovered?

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that as of Sunday, March 15, only two patients have recovered from COVID-19 in the Philippines.

Are the cases here in the Philippines underreported?

This is highly possible due to the country’s limited test kits.

What hospitals are accredited for testing the virus?

Aside from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila, other hospitals around the country have just been accredited as testing locations. These include:

  • Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City
  • Vicente Sotto Medical Center in Cebu City
  • Philippine General Hospital in Manila
  • The Medical City in Pasig City

Will I be charged if I get tested for COVID-19?

No. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the test is free.

When should I get tested for coronavirus?

According to Health Undersecretary Vergeire, those who qualify for testing are those who have a history of travel to countries with COVID-19, have had direct contact with confirmed cases, and show symptoms of the disease. These cases will be prioritised for testing to avoid straining state resources.

Is it true that the virus will not thrive when the weather is warmer?

It's hard to tell. Based on the behaviour of the common flu, there is evidence to suggest that the coronavirus will not thrive in higher temperatures. However, rising cases in countries like Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines, where the weather is currently warm, indicate otherwise.

How safe is it to travel?

Travellers leaving the Philippines were advised by the Department of Health to avoid places with known novel coronavirus cases.

They are encouraged to follow the advisories and public health plans of the country they are going to visit, familiarise themselves with health facilities near their location, and keep themselves updated with the latest information about the disease.

Can I catch the virus from objects touched by an infected person?

According to the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can contract the coronavirus when you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching a surface or object with the virus.

Is it safe to go to public places like hospitals, malls, and airports?

The Philippine government has instructed its citizens to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. In case of emergencies, those who need to go to public places should:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Practice proper cough etiquette. This means covering their mouth and nose using a handkerchief or tissue. Shirt sleeves or the crook of the elbow may also be used. They should also move away from people when coughing.
  • Always wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.
  • Not spit.
  • Throw away used tissues properly.
  • Maintain at least a one meter distance from individuals manifesting flu-like symptoms. Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Ensure that food is well-cooked.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Can a recovered patient get infected again?

There is no definitive answer to that yet, although countries like Japan and China have reported cases wherein a recovered patient tested positive for COVID-19 again. However, some doctors said that this could have been caused by testing errors and not a case of re-infection.

How long will it take to develop a cure?

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 yet. However, many of the symptoms are treated based on the patient’s clinical conditions.

Dr. Dale Fisher, a professor of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore and the chairman of the World Health Organisation’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, told VICE that no one expects a vaccine until next year.

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