The Philippine government said Tuesday that it has begun clinical trials for Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan to see whether it would be effective in treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The trials come as the Philippines is also conducting clinical trials for remdesivir, used in the treatment of Ebola, as well as interferon, an anti-viral agent, to treat COVID-19 patients.

Supplied photo shows tablets of the anti-influenza drug Avigan. (Photo courtesy of Fujifilm)(Kyodo)

The government said earlier that 18 million pesos ($367,000) has been allotted for the Avigan trials, with at least three health care facilities eyed to administer the drugs to 80 to 100 people.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said last week that the Philippines had received around 199,000 Avigan tablets from Japan so the trials could begin.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato De La Pena told a press conference on Tuesday that the clinical trials were ongoing.

Avigan is an oral anti-viral drug generically known as favipiravir. It is manufactured by a subsidiary of Japanese firm Fujifilm Holdings Corp.

COVID-19 cases in the country have seen a sharp spike in recent days, prompting medical groups to call for a return to stricter quarantine measures for two weeks.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines breached the 100,000 mark on Sunday, making it the country with the second-most cases in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

In response, the government announced the same day that it will re-impose partial lockdowns in the capital Manila, and nearby cities and provinces.

As of Monday, the Philippines had recorded 106,333 cases, including 2,104 deaths.