Philippines on Friday reported just 544 new cases of COVID-19 and 14,977 active cases—the first time in 18 months that it fell below 15,000, data from the Department of Health showed.
Meanwhile, Metro Manila can already be classified as “very low risk” for COVID-19, the independent OCTA Research Group said on Friday.
“Based on our metrics, the National Capital Region is now classified as very low risk. The figure compares the numbers this week versus the same week last year," OCTA fellow Guido David said on Twitter.
The last time the number of active COVID-19 cases fell below 15,000 was on June 4, 2020 when the country recorded 14,996 active cases, the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group said, citing DOH data adjusted for duplicate and reclassified cases.
The 544 new cases marked the 10th consecutive day the country recorded less than 1,000 new infections and is the third lowest figure so far this year, following 425 fresh infections on Tuesday and 500 on Wednesday.
But COVID-related deaths rose by 235, the highest in 2 weeks or since Nov. 19 when 277 deaths were announced, according to ABS-CBN IRG. The nationwide total now stands at 48,987 fatalities.
The DOH also announced 734 more recoveries, raising the total number to 2,769,914.
The active cases are just 0.5 percent of the country's 2,833,878 cumulative infections, based on the latest DOH bulletin.
Meanwhile, Guido showed a table posted on Twitter which marked an improvement in numbers in the Nov. 26 to Dec. 2 period this year compared to the same period last year.
OCTA said the average new COVID-19 cases per day was only 138 from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, 2021, compared to 416 during the same period last year.
The reproduction number—which refers to the number of people that one patient can infect– was 0.36 this year, down from 0.94 in 2020. A reproduction number below 1 indicates that the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
The daily attack rate per 100,000 fell to 0.97 this year from 2.94 last year. The positivity rate was down to 1.2 percent in 2021 from 3.9 percent in 2020.
There were also dramatic decreases in the number of hospital beds occupied and ICU bed occupancy.
There was also an improvement in the average number of tests—18,875 in 2021 up from 18,189 in 2020.
The COVID-19 positivity rate was at 1.8 percent. The country's total COVID-19 tests were 32,908 conducted on December 1. The Philippines' positivity rate is still within World Health Organization's target of below 5 percent.
The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), meanwhile, said the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients has decreased to 54, representing only 15 percent of the hospital's 350 beds dedicated to confirmed cases.
“Right now, the lowest number we have gotten for almost more than ayear,” said PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas del Rosario.
Rosario said most of the patients were moderate cases with less than 10 being admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit.
“I was told for the last two days, we have not admitted anybody with COVID. Our numbers are really going down… Maybe in the next few days or weeks, we will be down to the 20s,” he said.
Del Rosario said this may be attributed to the herd immunity achieved in the NCR after it achieved a high vaccination rate.
Even though PGH is already opening its doors to non-COVID patients, Rosario assured the public that it is prepared for the Omicron variant should it enter the country.
The Omicron variant, which has at least 50 mutations, is possibly more transmissible due to the difference in its spike protein from the original coronavirus.
“We’re always on this alert level because we have learned our lessons,” he said.
Del Rosario called on the government to prioritize manpower in the 2022 budget.
“Give the benefits to the frontliners. You know, we might have all the equipment, we might have all the rooms… if we do not have the people to man the hospitals then we’re still limited to the number of patients we can take care of,” he said.
Del Rosario also urged the government to increase the salaries of nurses, paramedical professions, and doctors to “slow down the tide of people leaving the country.”
Rosario earlier said about 15 PGH nurses went for opportunities abroad.
He also called for the creation of a dedicated hospital for future pandemics.
Also on Friday, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said RT-PCR tests for COVID-19 will continue to be available for free at the city's testing centers.
“Those being required by employers to take a swab test at their own expense, just go to our drive-through center in Luneta or to our six hospitals and get it for free,” Domagoso, who is running for president, said.
RT-PCR tests, considered the gold standard of testing, usually costs several thousand pesos at private hospitals.