First-ever fatalities unvaxxed elderlies, 492 new strain cases detected
The country has registered its first two deaths from the Omicron variant of COVID-19, both of them unvaccinated senior citizens with pre-existing medical conditions, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.
The DOH said the two fatalities were both detected during the latest whole-genome sequencing, which yielded 492 new Omicron cases.
“While Omicron mostly presents with asymptomatic and mild disease, our data shows that those most at risk for fatalities are still the elderly and those with co-morbidities and unvaccinated,” the DOH said.
A total of 492 new cases of the Omicron variant have been detected from the 714 samples sequenced on Jan. 14, the DOH said. There were also 115 cases of the Delta variant.
Of the Omicron cases, 332 were local and 160 were returning overseas Filipinos.
The DOH said three cases are still active, two cases have died, and 467 cases have been tagged as recovered. There are 20 cases whose outcomes are still being verified.
To date, the total number of confirmed Omicron variant cases is 535.
Of the additional 115 Delta variant cases, 88 were local cases and 27 were returning overseas Filipinos.
The DOH urged the public to follow protective health protocols and adhere to minimum public health standards due to high transmissibility of the Omicron variant and the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
The Philippine Statistics Authority earlier said COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the country, after ischemic heart diseases and cerebrovascular diseases.
The Philippines logged 22,958 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 3,293,625.
The positivity rate reached 43.5 percent, based on 62,531 tests conducted on Jan. 17.
There were 82 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 53,044.
The DOH also reported 36,611 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,969,853.
There were 270,728 active cases, of which 8,335 were asymptomatic; 257,632 were mild; 2,970 were moderate; 1,487 were severe; and 304 were critical.
Nationwide, 49 percent of ICU beds, 51 percent of isolation beds, 53 percent of ward beds, and 23 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 53 percent of ICU beds, 48 percent of isolation beds, 60 percent of ward beds, and 29 percent of ventilators, were in use.
On Tuesday, the DOH urged local governments with low vaccination rates to prepare their health care capacity, given the steep increase in COVID-19 cases in regions outside of Metro Manila.
The top regions with new virus infections this month are the capital region, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, the Cordilleras, and Ilocos region, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
Metro Manila’s neighbors Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal have experienced an increase in cases as well, Vergeire said.
The provinces’ daily virus cases increased to 1,400 in the last week of December from 153 during the first week of the same month, Vergeire added.
“We’re seeing a steep increase in the number of cases in other regions,” Vergeire said. “We can’t say definitely or with certainty that this is Omicron, but based on what we see here in NCR (National Capital Region), we’re seeing the same trend.”
Some 18 areas have also been placed under Alert Level 3, the third in a five-step level.
“Areas with low vaccination rates need to prepare their hospital capacity,” she said.
“Eighteen out of 99 areas were placed under Alert Level 3, many of these areas have less than 40 percent vaccination rate,” Vergeire said.
Areas under Alert Level 2 must also ramp up their vaccination rate, Vergeire said.
“All of our vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and effective,” Vergeire said.
Meanwhile, independent OCTA Research Group said the one-week COVID-19 growth rate in highly urbanized cities outside the NCRPlus continues to accelerate.
“While growth rates have slowed in NCR Plus, they are still accelerating in many HUCs outside NCR Plus,” OCTA Research fellow Guido David said on Twitter.
NCR Plus refers to NCR and its adjacent provinces.
OCTA’s data show the cities with the highest growth rate from Jan. 12 to 18 were Tacloban with 469 percent, Cebu with 378 percent, and Davao with 305 percent.
OCTA’s data also showed that Baguio City and the NCR have a severe level of average daily attack rate (ADAR) at 130.56 and 111.47, respectively.
Tacloban had the highest reproduction number at 4.59 as of Jan. 15, followed by Cebu City at 4.51 and Baguio City at 4.28.
The reproduction number in NCR was at 2.07.
Reproduction number refers to the number of people infected by one case. A reproduction number below 1 indicates infections are slowing down.