Dozens of doctors' groups on Saturday warned that the Philippines was losing the coronavirus fight, urging President Rodrigo Duterte to tighten a recently eased lockdown as cases surged and hospitals turned away patients.

Philippine officials on Thursday assured the public that any vaccine against the novel coronavirus would have to go through strict regulatory screening before being made available to Filipinos.

Concerns over the safety of a new Russian vaccine against COVID-19 were raised after Moscow announced that it was ready to mass produce it in October and offered to supply the Philippines or to team up with local firms to manufacture it in the country.

Eric Domingo, Director-General of the Food and Drug Administration, said the Manila government will be very careful in approving the vaccine, called Sputnik V.

“We have to make sure before we roll out a vaccine that it’s safe and effective,’’ he said in a television interview.

Domingo said Philippine officials have met with manufacturers and scientists who developed Sputnik V to discuss holding Phase 3 clinical trials in the country.

“The Philippines is a good site for clinical trial because we know there is community transmission in many of our communities so you can select that area,’’ he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he would volunteer to be the first to be experimented on with the vaccine.

The Philippines’ total number of confirmed coronavirus infections stood at 143,749 on Wednesday, the largest caseload in South-East Asia, with over 2,400 deaths.

Confidence in vaccines in the country suffered a blow in 2017 when an anti-dengue immunisation programme was stopped due to safety concerns over the vaccine Dengvaxia.

Critics have linked the vaccine to hundreds of deaths of children who were inoculated between April 2016 and December 2017.

The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration has since revoked the vaccine’s registration.

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