The Philippines logged a record-high 34,021 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 3,092,409.
Thursday’s tally was the highest number of daily cases reported since the pandemic began in March 2020, surpassing the case count of 33,169 on Jan. 10.
The positivity rate was at 47.9 percent, based on test results of samples from 78,866 people on Jan. 11.
The National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila accounted for half of the new cases, at 16,793. Region 4-A (Calabarzon) had 7,131 new cases or 21 percent of the daily tally, while Region 3 (Central Luzon) counted 3,745 cases or 11 percent.
There were 82 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 52,736.
The Department of Health (DOH) also reported 4,694 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,802,286.
There were 237,387 active cases, of which; 7,332 were asymptomatic; 225,408 were mild; 2,881 were moderate; 1,468 were severe; and 298 were critical.
Nationwide, 45 percent of ICU beds, 46 percent of isolation beds, 45 percent of ward beds, and 19 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 58 percent of ICU beds, 54 percent of isolation beds, 66 percent of ward beds, and 26 percent of ventilators, were in use.
The Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAPI) said the utilization rate at some 20 private hospitals was at a “critical level.”
PHAPI President Jose de Grano said these private hospitals reported 85 percent occupancy rate.
“It was really sudden,” he said. “Before we only had 200 cases.”
For De Grano, raising the alert level to 4 will be favorable for hospitals because it would further restrict movement of people.
The government’s treatment czar, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, said the government’s COVID-19 referral system was receiving “more than 1,120” calls per day, up from an average of 98 to 112 calls a day in the first week of December.
In September, the One Hospital Command received 780 to 800 calls during the surge caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
He said the rise in the number of calls reflected the rise in COVID-19 cases.
“It’s really high. It led to an increase in the number of calls. Around 60 percent of callers seek quarantine or isolation facilities or are seeking assistance for home isolation.,” he said during an online public briefing.
Only 15 percent of the calls were referred to hospitals and intensive care unit services, he added.
The center is also gradually increasing its number of isolation facilities for health care workers and the public after some ended their contracts on Dec. 31, Vega said.
“We increased the number of contracted hotels for isolation, and our local government units reactivated their TTMFs (temporary treatment and monitoring facilities),” he said.
Duque said the government was scheduled to discuss Thursday afternoon whether the implementation of the travel ban is still practical, given the increasing number of Omicron cases here.
In the latest genome sequencing run, the Philippines detected 29 new Omicron cases and 18 new Delta cases from 48 samples.
More than 150 countries have detected the variant, Duque also said.
“So we will see even if it’s still practical to implement our travel ban. As a matter of policy, this will have to be resolved later on by the IATF en banc,” Duque said in an interview on CNN.
The Philippines imposed travel restrictions over several countries, days after South Africa detected the highly contagious Omicron variant on Nov. 24.
Duque said contact tracing is now impractical due to the widespread community transmission.
Earlier, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said contact tracing was no longer a priority.
“You will be wasting a lot of resources doing contact tracing when you know that cases are already on an upswing, they’re accelerating, more and more communities are being infected,” Duque said.
He said there are more impactful activities such as the monitoring of individuals undergoing home isolation, teleconsultations, and vaccination.
He also reiterated that the government will give priority to testing of health care workers, senior citizens, and individuals with comorbidities.
Duque said it should be assumed that the COVID-19 numbers presented by the DOH are lower than what they are as not all individuals are being tested.
“From the very start, you assume that. All countries assume that the testing numbers, the positive results, are actually lower as registered with the epidemiology bureau,” he said, adding that the numbers are just “indicative.”
“It just establishes whether we are in an upswing or an uptick or acceleration phase of the surge or are we plateauing or are we in a crescent or downward trajectory,” he said.
Duque also stressed the importance of vaccination and compliance with the minimum public health standards such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing measures.
He said anyone who experiences the symptoms of COVID-19 should not wait for a test result before isolating. “If you are symptomatic, you isolate,” he said.