The country logged 3,045 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily case count for the year, as the resident epidemiologist of the Department of Health linked the surge in cases to new variants of the coronavirus.
Friday’s cases—the highest since Oct. 16 – brought total infections to 587,704 as five laboratories were unable to submit their data on time, the DOH said.
The DOH also reported 19 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 12,423, which is 2.11 percent of the total cases.
Some 178 patients recovered recently, bringing the total number of recoveries to 535,207, which is 91.1 percent of the total.
That left 40,074 active cases, which is 6.8 percent of the total number of infections. Of the active cases, 89.7 percent are mild; 5.6 percent are asymptomatic; 2 percent are critical; 1.9 percent are severe; and 0.77 percent are moderate.
The OCTA Research Team, which has been tracking the pandemic, said Metro Manila averaged over 900 new COVID-19 cases per day in the last week, a 50 percent increase from the previous week, and a 119 percent rise from two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Genome Center has detected the more transmissible South Africa coronavirus variant in 52 COVID-19 cases and the United Kingdom variant in 31 additional patients.
These figures bring the total number of South Africa variant cases to 58, UK variant cases to 118, and cases with mutations of concern to 76.
The rising number of cases has accompanied the government rolled out COVID-19 vaccines to health workers.
COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese company Sinovac arrived on Sunday and those from AstraZeneca arrived Thursday.
The resident epidemiologist at the DOH said there was indirect evidence that the surge in infections was linked to the new variants of the coronavirus.
“One evidence that the variant could be causing this surge is we detected the variant just before [the] cases started to rise. There’s some indirect evidence that the variant is causing this surge,” Dr. John Wong said in a virtual briefing.
Wong said the Philippines needs to sequence more samples from all regions to accurately determine the prevalence of the new variants.
The more transmissible United Kingdom and South Africa variants as well as two coronavirus mutations of concern have so far been detected by the Philippine Genome Center.
“We have to consider that the variants are an important factor in driving the surge because this has also happened in other countries, countries that have had variants have also experienced surges,” Wong said.
Wong also urged the public to protect themselves from COVID-19 by observing health protocols.
“Whether or not this is variant-driven, the fact that we’ve had increasing cases since February is sufficient enough to get people to do more,” Wong said.
“Our focus now should be… masking and ventilation. You wear a mask to protect yourself but also to protect other people. It’s sort of a form of herd immunity also. As more people wear masks, you protect the rest of the population,” Wong said.
Out of the 584,667 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines as of Thursday afternoon, 239,113 are in Metro Manila.
Of this number, 220,774 have recovered while 4,794 have died.
OCTA said Pasay averaged 150 new COVID-19 cases daily over the past week and logged a reproduction number of 1.83.
“This is the highest average daily new cases reported by the city in its history, even higher than what Pasay had back in July to August 2020,” the researchers said.
The experts also flagged Barangay 76 in Pasay as a COVID-19 hotspot after it recorded 128 new cases in just one week, or “an average of 18 per day, higher than the daily numbers reported in Muntinlupa, San Juan and Pateros.”
Nearby barangays that also registered a high number of new infections included Barangays 59, 70, and 36 in Pasay and Barangays Baclaran and Tambo in Parañaque.
“The objective is to prevent [the] spread of the virus from these clusters of barangays to the rest of the NCR in order to quickly reverse the pandemic surge that is happening now in parts of the NCR,” OCTA said.
Meanwhile, the experts said the number of new COVID-19 cases in Cebu City dropped for the first time, indicating that the upward trend in the area has reversed.
In Davao City where infections are still on a downtrend, the positivity rate has also decreased.
Meanwhile, slight case increases were recorded in the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue in Cebu province.
OCTA also said nearly all Metro Manila cities showed an increase in infections.
In Baguio City, experts noted a “renewed uptick” in new COVID-19 cases.
“However, the high positivity rate suggests a possible spike in new cases in CAR,” OCTA said, referring to the Cordillera Autonomous Region.
Majority or 41 of the newly-confirmed South African or B.1.351 variant cases were detected in Metro Manila, while the places where the 11 came from are still being verified, Duque told reporters in a briefing at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso described the latest COVID-19 situation in Manila as “alarming,” where he said 196 positive cases were recorded in just a single day the other day, a first in the recent past months.
He also lamented that in the six city-run hospitals, the present occupancy rate of the city’s 300 bed capacity is 108 or a total of 36 percent.
At the quarantine facilities, Domagoso said the occupancy rate is at an all-time high of 61 percent. Of the 371 bed capacity, the number of patients is at 225.
Domagoso reiterated calls for everyone to observe the basic health protocols at all times and anywhere they go.
The mayor also announced that in the three-day period of the city government’s vaccination rollout which he and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna Pangan spearheaded, 1,034 medical frontliners have been vaccinated with Coronovac made by Sinovac.
In Quezon City, Mayor Joy Belmonte said the city government would show no leniency for people who violate health protocols.
“Many of our citizens are not taking the ordinances seriously. Now, we will give them a reason to take this very seriously as we won’t be lenient this time around,” she said.
Dr. Rolly Cruz, City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU) chief, in a report to Belmonte, cited that the average daily new cases have reached 149 from Feb. 25 to March 4.
The city mayor warned violators of health protocols, such as non-wearing of face masks in public places, would be fined on the spot to teach them not to put their lives and the lives of others at risk.
City ordinances impose fines of P300, P500 and P1,000 for the first, second and third violations of health ordinances related to the pandemic, including the wearing of face masks in public places.
Belmonte also warned that establishments violating the minimum health standards would be dealt with more severely, especially hotels being used as quarantine facilities for overseas Filipino workers.
“There were reports that some quarantine hotels allow patients to leave the quarantine premises even before they finish the required quarantine period,” she said,
The city government is also eyeing the possibility of suspending the release of police clearance, occupational permit, barangay clearance, and hawkers’ permit to apprehended individuals or establishments who refuse to pay the said penalty indicated in the ordinance violation receipts.