A Philippine health official said Friday that a clinical trial for the Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan as a potential treatment for COVID-19 has yet to begin, correcting an announcement earlier this week by the nation's science secretary that it was already ongoing.

On Thursday, the Japanese Embassy in Manila said the Japanese government delivered Avigan tablets for 100 patients to the Philippine Department of Health the same day as part of its "emergency grant aid" to countries severely affected by the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

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

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato De La Pena told a press conference on Tuesday that the clinical trial was ongoing. But on Friday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told local media that the trial is "going to happen soon."

"The medicine is already here and we are starting soon," Vergeire said in an interview with a local media outlet, telling Kyodo News later that the trial is slated to begin once legal arrangements are finalized.

Avigan is the brand name of favipiravir, an antiviral drug manufactured by a subsidiary of Japanese firm Fujifilm Holdings Corp. It is seen as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

"Japan has formed close cooperation with several countries, including the Philippines, to expand clinical research on Avigan as treatment for this infectious disease," the embassy said in a statement.

The Philippine government said earlier that 18 million pesos ($367,000) has been allotted for the Avigan trial to be conducted at least three health care facilities.

The Philippines had the most confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Southeast Asia at 119,460 as of Thursday, surpassing Indonesia.

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