PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered a price ceiling on coronavirus test kits after reports of overpricing.
The President issued Executive Order 118 asking the Department of Health (DOH) and Trade department to determine the price range for test kits used in hospitals, clinics and laboratories.
Hospitals and other health facilities must comply with the price ceiling before they can be accredited as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) centers, according to the order.
The two agencies must “ensure that the price range for COVID-19 testing and test kits is just, equitable and sensitive to all stakeholders,” according to a copy of the order.
Health and Tourism officials have sought the price cap on swab tests after the government started reopening some sectors amid the pandemic. Travel restrictions have been eased as long as tourists can provide proof that they are coronavirus-free.
DoH reported 987 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 388,137. The death toll rose by 49 to 7,367, while recoveries increased by 140 to 349,091, it said in a bulletin.
“The relative low report in the new cases is part of the effects of Typhoon “Rolly,” the agency said in a statement. “This decrease may still be observed over the next few days, and may be followed by a relative increase in newly reported cases in the coming days or weeks.”
There were 31,679 active cases , 82.6% of which were mild, 10.1% did not show symptoms, 2.6% were severe and 4.7% were critical.
Davao City reported the highest number of new cases at 136, followed by Iloilo at 67, Quezon City at 47, Taguig City at 43 and Iloilo City at 41.
DoH said 11 duplicates had been removed from the tally, while 13 cases tagged as recovered were reclassified as deaths. It also said 12 laboratories had failed to submit their data on Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, the agency said it was looking at two sets of COVID-19 vaccine makers for potential government orders when these become available, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing.
The first group consists of drug manufacturers and bilateral partners that may want to conduct clinical trials in the Philippines first, she said.
The other group consists of drug companies that are willing to sell the vaccines to the government, she added.
DoH is also in talks with manufacturers for potential vaccine orders once they finish clinical trials in November, Ms. Vergeire said.
Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., the chief enforcer of the government’s anti-coronavirus efforts, earlier said they could finish evaluating and ordering coronavirus vaccines by December 2022. Mr. Galvez, who is also the country’s vaccine czar, will handle negotiations for the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
Ms. Vergeire said DoH has developed the expertise to enforce a national vaccine program for the coronavirus.
“We have already drafted our vaccine implementation plan,” she said. “It contains all the considerations and assumptions based on science and plans for operations,” she said in mixed English and Filipino.
Also on Wednesday, DoH said it had released at least P20 million worth of financial aid to three DoH-retained hospitals and local government units in the Bicol region, which was battered by Typhoon Goni, locally named Rolly.
The three hospitals were among eight health facilities in the region that were damaged by the typhoon.
Ms. Vergeire said 155 COVID-19 patients and 169 health workers who got transferred to hotels during the storm, had yet to return to treatment centers in Metro Manila. — Gillian M. Cortez and Charmaine A. Tadalan