The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday, March 11, reported the death of the 35th recorded case of coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) infection in the Philippines.

This is the first death of a Filipino recorded in the Philippines, and the second since the demise of a Chinese visitor in January, the first outside of China, the origin of the novel coronavirus

The 35th case, based on a DOH list, was a 67-year-old woman confined at the Manila Doctors’ Hospital. The patient had no travel history and first showed symptoms on Feb. 29. Her death occurred on the same day she tested positive for Covid-19.

She was among the 16 new cases of the coronavirus disease reported by the DOH on Wednesday, which brought the total to 49.

From Jan. 30 to early March, the number of confirmed cases was stuck at three, all Chinese citizens, including the first fatality.

On March 5, the DOH confirmed the fourth and fifth cases. The former is a 48-year-old Filipino male who worked as a lawyer for Deloitte and had travelled to Japan. The latter, the first case of local transmission in the Philippines, is a 62-year-old Filipino male, a resident of Cainta with no travel history and who frequented the Muslim prayer hall in Greenhils, San Juan. The following day, March 6, his wife also tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of cases to six.

On March 8, four new cases emerged, bringing the total to 10. The number doubled to 20 on March 9 as 10 more patients tested positive. President Rodrigo Duterte announced four more cases in a late-night press conference in Malacañang on March 9, and on March 10, the DOH reported nine new cases.

Maria Rosario Vergeire, assistant health secretary, initially did not reveal the nationalities of the 16 new cases. A press release later listed all of them as Filipinos.

Also on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. would shoulder the cost of Covid-19 testing and quarantine.

“The last thing we want is for our citizens to worry about medical costs and expenses. Their only concern should be their well-being and the well-being of their families,” he said in a statement.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved test kits developed by scientists at the University of the Philippines, which would augment the limited supply of kits sourced overseas.

The Palace on Wednesday appealed to the public to stay calm, and not go to hospitals unnecessarily. Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo also urged Filipinos not to go into panic-buying mode.

“While we encourage everyone to consult or see a healthcare provider in case they experience any symptom of the virus, mild or otherwise, we wish to reiterate what our health officials have been saying to the public: Those considered close contacts with symptoms of COVID-19 should be prioritized in obtaining medical attention and management,” Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo explained that “close contacts” include persons with a travel history in the last 14 days to countries with local transmission of Covid-19, or those who have a history of exposure to patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Exposure refers to those who provided direct care for a Covid-19 patient or those working together, staying in the same close environment, traveling together, or living in the same household with a Covid-19 patient within the 14-day incubation period, he said.

“The Palace likewise appeals to our people to buy only what they need. There are reports of panic-buying in some supermarkets, groceries or pharmacies. This would only result in undue hoarding and price increases. Our officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) gave assurances that we have ample stock of essential items,” Panelo said.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of everyone’s cooperation during this time. Let us not circulate unverified information that may only cause unnecessary anxiety among the members of our respective communities and instead maintain good hygiene and observe proper etiquette at all times,” he said.

Covid-19 cases have reached a total of 113,702 in 110 countries and territories. The death toll has reached 4,012, according to the March 10 situation report of the World Health Organization. (