Daily infections seen at 20k next week as Omicron now in communities
The Philippines on Wednesday logged 10,775 new COVID-19 cases, nearly double from the previous day, data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed.
The positivity rate climbed to 31.7 percent of the 44,643 people tested, up from 26.2 percent on Jan. 4. The rate was much higher than the under 5 percent deemed acceptable by the World Health Organization. A positivity rate of 5 percent or more indicates the transmission rate of the virus is high.
Of the 10,775 reported cases, 10,688 (99 percent) occurred within the recent 14 days (De. 23 to Jan. 5, 2022).
The top regions with cases in the recent two weeks were Metro Manila (National Capital Region) (7,420 or 69 percent), Region 4-A (Calabarzon) (1,719 or 16 percent) and Region 3 (Central Luzon) (798 or 7 percent).
There were 58 new fatalities reported, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 51,662.
The DOH also reported 605 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,780,109.
There were 39,974, active cases, of which 1,294 are asymptomatic; 33,866 are mild; 2,983 are moderate; 1,512 are severe; and 319 are critical.
Nationwide, 27 percent of ICU beds, 31 percent of isolation beds, 23 percent of ward beds, and 13 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 37 percent of ICU beds, 39 percent of isolation beds, 45 percent of ward beds, and 18 percent of ventilators, were in use.
Nearly 70 percent of new infections come from Metro Manila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Talk to the People” that aired Tuesday night.
The capital region is now under a critical risk classification for having a two-week growth rate of 1,475 percent and an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 8.79 per 100,000 population, Duque said.
Metro Manila on Tuesday recorded a 40 percent positivity rate and has a reproduction rate of 5, according to the independent OCTA Research Group.
The independent researchers said the Philippines could log 20,000 new cases a day by next week, due to the likely spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said while the government was still looking for definitive evidence of the local transmission of Omicron, there was a high probability that it is already in communities.
The country had detected 14 Omicron variant cases, three of which were local cases–two from Bicol and one from the National Capital Region.
Of the 11 imported cases, nine were returning overseas Filipinos and two were foreign nationals.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana on Wednesday said the Omicron variant is still deadly amid reports that it is less fatal compared to other COVID-19 variants.
Salvana, also an adviser for the DOH, said Omicron might be less deadly compared to the Delta variant but still can cause death among vulnerable and unvaccinated populations.
“It’s only about one-thirds less likely to cause severe disease that needs hospital care but it does not mean that it was zero. The vulnerable and unvaccinated population may still die due to the disease,” he said in an interview on GMA News’ Unang Balita.
On Monday, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said the Omicron variant could be dominant in the country in the next three to four weeks.
Salvana advised the public to have a two week interval between vaccine shots for influenza and COVID-19.
He said they should be administered in separate periods to better document what shot is causing a possible adverse effect since most COVID-19 vaccines only have emergency use authorization.
Earlier, Salvana downplayed concerns that the flurona (flu and coronavirus) infection is a “major breakdown of one’s immunity.”
He said it was an “unfortunate confluence of events” if a person was exposed to two pathogens. He pointed out that it was not unusual to see co-infection in these cases.
On Wednesday, the DOH said about 93 percent of the fatalities due to COVID-19 in 2021 were patients who were not vaccinated against the disease.
DOH Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, during a radio interview, said this was based on the data from March to December last year.
Vega added that 80 percent of those hospitalized due to the disease were also unvaccinated.
In other developments:
• The president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) said health care workers were becoming infected in the new wave of COVID-19 infections. Dr. Maricar Limpin, in a radio interview, said this is because of the huge exposure of medical personnel to COVID-19 patients. She said those infected include not just nurses but also technicians and drivers of ambulances.
• The DOH said it is studying the use of antigen self-test kits for COVID-19. On Monday, department officials met with experts, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) to discuss the proposal, Vergeire said.