Duterte says there is 'no solution in sight’ for COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 13) — The coronavirus disease outbreak is a “crisis with no solution in sight,” said President Rodrigo Duterte when he addressed Filipinos Thursday night on the status of COVID-19 in the country..

“You choose to be a part of government and there is a crisis with no solution in sight. Walang solusyon [there is no solution] unless there is a vaccine by the grace of God na may makita o maimbento ng ating mga scientists [that our scientists may have found or invented],” he said in his speech.

The country is seeing a rise in its confirmed cases of the viral disease with 52 infected individuals. The death toll now stands at five, including a Chinese man and four Filipinos. 

The World Health Organization on Wednesday characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic as the number of cases outside China has increased 13-fold over the past two weeks and the number of affected countries has tripled.

The WHO estimates that it may take more than a year for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus to be developed

Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 4,700 and infected over 127,000 people, according to the Johns Hopkins University global tracking of cases.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which is related to the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, but is not as deadly, with the fatality rate standing at around three percent.

WHO said 80 percent of patients only experience “mild illness” and eventually recover. It added that some 14 percent experience severe illness while five percent were critically ill.

In line with the increase in recorded infections, Duterte placed the entire Metro Manila under a "lockdown” to contain the disease, and emphasized the importance of social distancing, including in mass transportation. The alert level of the country was also raised to Code Red, Sub-level 2, which is the highest alert level for COVID-19.

“For Manila, ayaw namin gamitin ‘yan pero --- kasi takot kayo sabihin ‘lockdown’ [For Manila, we don’t want to use that because you are scared to say ‘lockdown’]. But it’s a lockdown,” Duterte said.

He stressed that the viral disease is “spreading all throughout the country” and there is no cure.

“Wala naman tayong mabili sa mga botika, pharmacy, to buy the medicines to cure COVID-19,” he said.

[Translation: We can’t buy (medicine) in drug stores and pharmacies to cure COVID-19.]

What do we have now?

Despite the lack of vaccine and cure for the deadly virus, Filipino scientists from the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health were able to develop a test kit for the virus, with funding from the Department of Science and Technology.

The Food and Drug Administration has already approved the local test kits for field validation. At least four selected hospitals known for their expertise in treating infectious diseases will begin validating the local test kit to make sure it is safe for public use, one of the product developers said Thursday. The field validation study, which may be completed within two to three weeks, is one of the two pre-conditions set by the FDA for the kit to become commercially available, and for it to gain approval from WHO. 

Right now, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has to process every test, but the demand for testing does not match its capacity.

The new kit is six times cheaper at P1,320 per test than the current kit imported by RITM, which costs P8,500 each.