COVID-19 death toll tops 500, recoveries exceed 800 as cases rise to 7,579

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) — The Health Department reported seven new fatalities on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 501. Meanwhile, 70 more people have survived the viral disease, raising the total number of recoveries to 862.

The Health Department also reported 285 new cases, bringing the total number of people who have contracted the infection to 7,579. This is the highest number of cases in 12 days.

Most of the new cases were recorded in Metro Manila, with 153 of them living in the region. Many of the new cases in the capital region were recorded in Manila City, with 21 new cases, followed by Quezon City and Mandaluyong City, which each recorded 17, and Parañaque City which recorded 15.

Central Visayas followed Metro Manila with 62 new cases, while Calabarzon came in third with 41.

The department reported the lowest daily increase of new cases in three weeks on Saturday, with only 102 more people confirmed to have been infected with the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

It had also said that the doubling time — or the time it takes for the number of coronavirus cases to double — has slowed down from three days to five days, but stressed that it is still too early to say that the country has “flattened the curve” or slowed down the spread of the disease to the point that the healthcare system would no longer be overwhelmed.

As of Friday, data from the DOH shows that 17 labs can conduct a maximum of 6,170 tests daily. Nineteen laboratories have now been accredited to conduct COVID-19 tests, as the DOH aims to increase the country’s daily testing capacity to 8,000 by the end of the month.

Among the labs that can conduct COVID-19 tests is the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine which scaled down operations last week after 43 of its staff were infected with the new coronavirus. With most of them recovering, the DOH said the leading COVID-19 testing lab is now back at full operation.

The DOH earlier said the country's 18 accredited laboratories can now conduct 4,500 coronavirus tests daily. Earlier this week, however, the capacity went down to 2,700 after the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine scaled down its operations due to 43 of its employees testing positive for COVID-19.

The DOH explained it takes around 13 days up to more than a month for patients to recover, depending on the severity of their symptoms.

To contain the spread of COVID-19, President Rodrigo Duterte has extended the enhanced community quarantine in the regions of Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon until May 15.

The same stay-at-home orders and suspension of most work and mass transportation will also remain in effect in "high-risk" provinces or those with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

The country reported its first COVID-19 case in late January, just a month after the outbreak began in Wuhan, China.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected more than 2.9 million and killed over 203,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 global tracker.