The country’s daily new COVID-19 cases were up 9.9 percent and the number of severe and critical patients increased in the previous week, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.
Some 718 or 12.9 percent of COVID-19 patients in hospitals were in severe and critical condition, the DOH’s latest bulletin said.
The figure is higher than the previous week’s 588 severe and critical patients, who comprised 10.9 percent of COVID-19 hospital admissions at the time.
A total of 432 or 15.4 percent of 2,812 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients were occupied as of Sunday, the DOH reported.
From May 16 to 22, the country recorded 1,214 new COVID-19 cases, or an average of 173 per day, which is 9.9 percent higher than the cases reported from the previous week, the DOH also reported.
Of the additional infections during the week, 14 were severe and critical, the DOH said.
The DOH has repeatedly said an increase in cases would not be considered significant if the numbers do not lead to a rise in hospitalization and severe or critical illness.
During the past week, the DOH said it verified six COVID-related fatalities, citing late encoding of death information. Three of the deaths occurred between May 9 and 22, one in April, one in February, and one in January 2021, the DOH reported.
Some 69 million people or 76.71 percent of the eligible 90 million population have been fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease. At least 13.8 million have received their booster shots, it said.
The DOH over the weekend announced it detected the first case of BA.4 in the country in a Filipino traveler from the Middle East earlier this month.
The DOH advised the public that practicing minimum health standards and vaccination remain the most effective ways of protection against new variants and the post-COVID condition or “long COVID.”
Minimum health protocols can also protect against monkeypox, the DOH said.
Meanwhile, the independent OCTA Research Group said the new Omicron subvariants are finding it difficult to get through the country’s “wall of immunity” from its vaccination program.
The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated 68.6 million people, of whom 13.7 million have received their first booster as of May 16, according to the DOH. The government has begun administering second booster shots to the elderly, immunocompromised, and health workers.
The DOH on Sunday urged the public to practice minimum health standards and to get vaccinated as these are still the most effective ways of protection against any new COVID-19 variant or even the post-COVID condition, more commonly known as “Long COVID.”
The department issued the statement just a few days after it announced the detection of the highly transmissible omicron BA.4 subvariant from a Filipino who traveled from the Middle East earlier in May.
The DOH said wearing face masks, isolating when sick, ensuring good airflow, getting vaccinated and availing of booster shots still work against both new variants and Long COVID.
Long COVID has symptoms that include fatigue, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, and joint pain, the DOH said.
“These can be felt usually three months after being infected with the COVID-19 virus, may last for at least two months, and cannot be explained by other conditions,” it said.
There is still no test to diagnose “Long COVID,” the DOH said.
Because of this, the public is advised to consult a doctor or health care provider for first aid, it added.
Those who experience the following must seek emergency assistance—difficulty breathing (catching breath, only being able to say one word), severe chest pain, lightheadedness, or fainting, it said.
“The most effective way to avoid Long COVID is to avoid getting COVID-19 in the first place,” the DOH said.
Virus patients who experienced moderate to severe illness were more likely to get long COVID, Dr. Ted Herbosa, adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said.
“They continue to develop symptoms of fatigue, inflammation that continues even after they have recovered from the illness,” Herbosa said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart Monday.
The public is urged to get their booster shots while government is encouraged to allow 4th vaccine doses to the general public, Herbosa said.
The Philippines logged on Sunday 191 new COVID-19 cases, data from the DOH said.
The number of active cases is 2,252. Of the fresh infections, 55 are from Metro Manila, the DOH said.
The country’s total cases has climbed to 3,688,941.
The death toll from COVID-19 remained at 60,455, with no new death recorded Sunday.
Total recoveries reached 3,626,234.
The positivity rate for the week of May 15 to 21 is 1.11 percent, slightly higher than the 1.06 percent recorded the previous week.
The DOH had announced the detection of the highly transmissible omicron BA.4 subvariant from a Filipino who traveled from the Middle East earlier in May.
The DOH on Saturday recorded 246 new cases, the highest since May 1.
In other developments:
• An infectious disease expert, Dr. Rontgene Solante, said it is still too early for the government to implement border restrictions and raise the alert level, amid the detection of the transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.4. Solante, however, said the government should strictly
monitor the situation and test vulnerable individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms.
• Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion proposed that COVID-19 vaccines be given to those who are willing to receive them as long as they are part of the eligible population or at least the priority groups (A1 to A4) who are due for their second boosters.
“We have the vaccines and like all vaccines these are time-bound. We need a sense of urgency. Let the individual decide if he believes he could benefit from the shots. There are already people who want to receive their second shots,” he said Monday. There are currently some 90 million doses of the existing formulation of the COVID-19 vaccine available, sourced from donations, the private sector, and those bought by the government.