The total number of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country breached the 7,000th mark on Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) said as it noted that around a third of the provinces remain free from the contagion.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that based on the latest DOH data, 26 of the country’s 81 provinces have not recorded any COVID-19 case since a local outbreak was reported in March.
The DOH was still looking into the factors that enabled these provinces to remain without infections, but Vergeire said it may be attributed to them being “geographically isolated,” some being island provinces.
These provinces are Agusan del Sur, Apayao, Aurora, Basilan, Batanes, Biliran, Camarines Norte, Davao Occidental, Dinagat Islands, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Ifugao, Kalinga, Masbate, Mountain Province, Quirino, Sarangani, Siquijor, Sorsogon, Southern Leyte, Sulu, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay.
Ten of these provinces are in Luzon, where an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has been in force since March 17.
Except for the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and other high-risk areas in Luzon, a number of provinces will transition on May 1 from ECQ to general community quarantine (GCQ), a situation described by the DOH as “the new normal.”
Vergeire said those living in GCQ areas would have to adhere to some basic health practices to reduce the population’s vulnerability to the virus.
“We can only shift from ECQ to GCQ if these minimum health standards are in place,” she said, referring to the need to keep a proper diet, exercise regularly, wear face masks, observe cough etiquette, wash hands frequently, maintain physical distancing, avoid mass gatherings, manage stress and, if possible, work from home.
As of Friday, the total number of COVID-19 cases nationwide swelled to 7,192 with the addition of 211 new cases.
The number of recovered patients increased to 762, with the recovery of 40 patients.
The death toll climbed to 477 as 15 more patients succumbed to the disease.
To date, Vergeire said the DOH had observed 18 clusters of infections across the country.
One of the biggest clusters was traced to Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan City. It accounts for 45 positive cases, six of whom have had “interaction with the patients,” according to the department.
Another cluster was traced to the cockfights held at Matina Gallera in Davao City on March 7, 10 and 12. From this cluster, 14 persons tested positive for the virus.
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