Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is offering a reward of almost $200,000 to any citizen who can develop a vaccine against COVID-19, local media reported on Tuesday.
“COVID-19 is a public enemy not only in the Philippines but in the entire world; the President announced he will give a reward of up to 10 million Philippine peso [$197,092] to any Filipino who will discover a vaccine against COVID-19,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said at a news briefing, local daily Manila Bulletin reported.
Duterte’s offer came as coronavirus cases in the Philippines increased to 6,599 on Tuesday after 140 more people tested positive over the past 24 hours.
Nine more fatalities raised the death toll to 437, while recoveries reached 654 after 41 patients were discharged from hospitals, the Health Ministry said.
Meanwhile, 1,084 Filipinos have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in 42 countries and regions, most of them in Europe, and 153 have died, according to the Foreign Ministry.
New testing lab
The Philippines Red Cross (PRC) opened a new molecular lab in the capital Manila on Tuesday to boost the country’s coronavirus testing capacity.
The lab can process up to 3,000 COVID-19 tests every day with two high-tech reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines, read a statement by the PRC.
“Testing remains to be a cornerstone in reference to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and with this, PRC’s support to the DOH [Directorate of Health] is indeed immeasurable,” Philippines Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
Trump offers assistance
In a phone call with Duterte over the weekend, United States President Donald Trump offered assistance in the Philippines’ fight against COVID-19.
A statement by the U.S. Embassy in Manila said the two leaders spoke on Sunday and “agreed to continue working together as long-time allies to defeat the pandemic, save lives and restore global economic strength.”
“The two leaders also discussed how the United States and the Philippines can continue building upon the string and enduring economic, cultural and security ties binding the two nations,” read the statement.
The novel coronavirus has spread to 185 countries and regions since emerging in China last December, with the U.S. and Europe the hardest-hit areas in the world.
More than 2.49 million cases have been reported around the globe, with the death toll exceeding 171,000 and recoveries over 656,000, according to data compiled by the U.S.’ Johns Hopkins University.