COVID-19 cases in the Visayas and Mindanao are increasing, while infections are decreasing in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.
The DOH earlier flagged a “sustained increase” in cases in the Visayas and Mindanao at 87.35 percent and 164.72 percent, respectively, during the previous week.
“Let’s not worry, let’s not panic because we can prevent the spread of the virus through immediate vaccination and observance of health protocols,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in Filipino at an online briefing.
Most of the cases in Metro Manila are asymptomatic, mild, or moderate, she said.
Only 18 percent of those hospitalized had severe to critical illnesses versus 36 percent during the wave of Delta variant infections, Vergeire said.
“This proves that our vaccines are effective in preventing hospitalization and severe and critical condition.,” she said.
Residents of Metro Manila and neighboring provinces must still observe minimum public health standards, she said.
The government urged the public to wear face masks properly and observe good ventilation in their homes and establishments ahead of expected gatherings for the Chinese New Year.
“Good ventilation is an easy way to prevent the spread of airborne COVID-19 (particles),” Vergeire said.
The Philippines logged 18,638 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the nationwide total to 3,511,491, the DOH reported.
The country’s COVID-19 positivity rate was at 34.6 percent based on 62,671 people tested. The rate is still much higher than the World Health Organization’s target of less than 5 percent.
There were 231,658 active infections, of which 7,055 were asymptomatic, 219,811 were mild, 2,971 were moderate, 1,509 were severe, and 312 were in critical condition.
There were 68 new fatalities, increasing the COVID-19 death tally to 53,801.
Total recoveries rose to 3,226,032 with 13,106 people recovering from the viral disease.
Nationwide, 49 percent of 3,900 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients were in use.
At least 51 percent of the 15,900 ward beds in the country were utilized, while 45 percent of the 4,400 ward beds in the National Capital Region (NCR) were in use.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the Philippine Genome Center detected the BA.2 or the Stealth Omicron, a sub-lineage of the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant in 75 percent of the COVID-19 samples they sequenced.
However, the BA.2 was causing only mild symptoms on a COVID-19 patient, just like the BA.1, another sub-lineage of Omicron.
Duque affirmed that BA.2 is currently the predominant variant in the National Capital Region and other regions due to its increasing cases.
The BA.1 meanwhile is predominant among returning overseas Filipinos, and was also seen in Region 5.
The independent OCTA Research Group said it saw daily cases falling to under 10,000 in the next one or two weeks.
OCTA fellow Guido David said new COVID-19 infections in the NCR and most of Calabarzon and Central Luzon were expected to go down.
During the peak, these three regions accounted for 88 percent of the daily new cases, but they now account for only 32 percent, he said.
Also on Friday, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong recommended that his city remain under Alert Level 3, to avoid the risk of a surge due to opening up too early.
Magalong said during a briefing that the city’s current alert level gave authorities the flexibility to respond to COVID-19.