July 30, 2020 / 11:11 AM / 14 days ago

Philippines sees record jump in COVID-19 cases as govt plans new strategy

FILE PHOTO: A woman stranded due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, sits on the ground at a baseball stadium with her children while waiting to be transported back to their provinces through a government transportation program, in Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines reported nearly 4,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a record daily jump in infections for the fourth time this month, just as President Rodrigo Duterte prepared to announce a major shift in his government’s COVID-19 response.

The rising numbers could spell trouble for the Philippines’ healthcare system at a time when several major public and private hospitals in Metropolitan Manila have reported their intensive care units (ICUs) have reached full capacity.

Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso on Thursday temporarily shut a public hospital to new patients to halt the spread of the coronavirus that infected many of the hospital’s staff.

The 3,954 infections reported on Thursday was a sharp increase from the record 2,539 cases confirmed on July 8, health ministry data showed.

The Philippines has Southeast Asia’s second highest number of coronavirus infections after Indonesia, with cases jumping nearly five-fold to 89,374 and deaths more than doubling to 1,983 since a tough lockdown was eased in June.

Carlito Galvez, a former military chief in charge of the national coronavirus task force, said a case jump was inevitable after the government loosened curbs to allow for a gradual return to work and business activity.

“When we open the economy, there will be more contact, that’s the consequential outcome,” he said.

The government has said it would ramp up coronavirus testing, amid criticism it was too slow to test and trace infections. It aims to carry out 10 million tests by next year but has so far undertaken just over a tenth of those.

Officials also said the government is now building more quarantine facilities to isolate patients with mild or no symptoms and avoid widespread community transmissions.

Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty

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