Philippines eyes early Sinovac trials as Covid-19 infections total hits 356,618

People working in the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China. Sinovac Biotech may start late-stage trials of its coronavirus vaccine in the Philippines as early as next month, its food and drugs agency chief has announced. - Reuters

MANILA, Oct 18 (Xinhua): The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Philippines surged to 356,618 after the Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,379 new cases on Sunday.

The DOH said that the number of recoveries also surged to 310,158 after 14,941 more patients recovered. Meanwhile, 50 more patients died from the viral disease, bringing the death toll to 6,652.

The DOH said over 4.1 million people in the Philippines have been tested so far. The Philippines has a population of about 110 million.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Sinovac Biotech may start late-stage trials of its coronavirus vaccine in the Philippines as early as next month, its food and drugs agency chief has announced, after it hurdled the initial stage of the country's screening process.

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) expects to receive the Chinese drug maker's formal application for phase three clinical trials within two weeks and regulators will make a decision after their evaluation, FDA head Rolando Enrique Domingo said.

Domingo told reporters a November trial start was "possible".

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte repeated on Wednesday that he preferred that his country source its Covid-19 vaccines from either China or Russia.

He also said he wanted the entire population vaccinated and has previously said he would not reopen schools until a vaccine was available.

A Sinovac spokesman confirmed that materials had been provided to the philippines in the hope of starting Phase 3 trials, but gave no timeframe.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) of the Philippines on Sunday said that the Philippines still bars foreign nationals from entering the country.

Immigration chief Jaime Morente said that "inbound restrictions are still in place for foreign nationals," adding that only Filipinos, their spouse, and minor children holding tourist visas are allowed to enter the country.

But Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles has said that the inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases (IATF) is "studying" whether to allow inbound travel to the Philippines after the lifting of the restriction on non-essential outbound travel.

"No promises. As I've said, that is still being carefully studied. We're looking at a lot of factors," Nograles, also the co-chair of the IATF, said in a Facebook Live video on Saturday night.

"For foreigners, international tourists, or international inbound passengers, it's still a work in progress. We are still discussing how to resolve that. At least we got the outbound, the inbound is the next step," he said.

"In December, I don't want to make promises, but rest assured that it's something that we are looking into," Nograles added.

Starting Oct. 21, Filipinos will be allowed to travel abroad following the government's decision to lift the ban on non-essential outbound travel. - Xinhua

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