The current increase in COVID-19 cases may be attributed to the coronavirus Omicron BA.5 sub-variant, which now comprises about 85 percent of the samples sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC).
Of the 1,100 to 1,200 samples being sequenced in the country per week, BA.5 was the “most predominant variant” detected, said PCG Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma.
The subvariant overshadowed other Omicron sub-variants such as BA.4, BA.2.12.1, and BA.2.3, she said.
“If we consolidate the data from Visayas, Mindanao, and Luzon… if we look at this in the past month alone, BA.5 is really the most predominant sample or variant that we are sequencing in the Philippines. It’s about 85 percent of our sequenced samples,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“All in all, we can probably say that this current wave is really the BA.5 wave here in our country,” she added.
Saloma said that based on the PGC’s sequencing analysis, most of the detected BA.5 cases in the country were composed specifically of the BA.5.2.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday reported an additional 95 BA.5 cases in the Philippines, which brought its total caseload to over 3,100.
On the other hand, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said that the COVID-19 wave in the country was lasting longer than expected and could continue until the last quarter.
“Initially, we expected a two-month wave due to Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 because that is how long it lasted in South Africa, but our wave has not peaked yet. It’s taking longer,” he said.
“Right now, it’s looking like it will last up to four to five months,” he added.
On Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) announced that the country detected its first two cases of the Omicron sub-variant BA.2.75, dubbed “Centaurus,” in the Western Visayas.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana, meanwhile, said there is no need to raise the COVID-19 alert level, even though the country has logged more than 4,000 new cases for four consecutive days.
“Our health utilization [rate] is still good, and the ADAR [average daily attack rate] is still below 18, so those are the parameters. Because the number of cases is not as important as it was before,” he said in Filipino
“We had a lot of severe cases before but now most of us are vaccinated, others have been boosted, we have medicine, and we know how to prevent this. Its impact on health care utilization is more important,” he said.
The National Capital Region and several other areas will remain under a COVID-19 Alert Level 1 from Aug. 1 to 15.
He also advised the public to remain calm, saying there is no evidence that the Omicron subvariant BA.2.75 is “taking over.” He also reminded the public to observe minimum health protocols in wearing face masks.
The Philippines logged 27,331 new COVID-19 cases in the last week, during which severe and critical patients reached 772, the DOH said Monday.
From Aug. 1 to 7, the country logged an average of 3,904 infections per day, up 13 percent compared to the previous week, according to the DOH’s latest bulletin.
Of the additional infections during the week, 76 were severe and critical.
A total 772 of or 9.3 percent of COVID-19 patients in hospitals were in severe and critical condition as of Sunday.
The figure is higher than the previous week’s 744 severe and critical patients who comprised 9.2 percent of COVID-19 hospital admissions at the time.
Some 624 or 24.8 percent of 2,514 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients were occupied as of Sunday.
During the past week, the DOH said it verified 80 more COVID-related fatalities, citing late encoding of death information.
Some 71 million people have been fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease, of whom 16.6 million have received their booster shots.
The DOH said almost 700,000 Filipinos already received their first COVID-19 booster shot so far under the government’s “PinasLakas” campaign.
DOH officer-in-charge and Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are now bringing the vaccines closer to communities in a bid to ramp up the booster coverage in the country amid the rising COVID-19 infections.
Some of the populated places being used as vaccination sites now are markets, places of worship, workplaces, and schools, Vergeire said.
“As of Aug. 6, we have already vaccinated almost 700,000 individuals for the first booster shot, and for the senior citizen, about 43,000,” Vergeire said.
DOH launched the PinasLakas campaign on July 26, with a goal to boost 23.8 million Filipinos or 50 percent of the eligible population within the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.
It also aims to vaccinate 90 percent f the target senior citizens within the same period.
DOH earlier said the government must vaccinate 397,334 individuals per day in 60 days to achieve the target.
However, as the campaign failed to meet its daily goals since its kick-off, Vergeire on Friday said they need to increase their target, boost 443,892 individuals and vaccinate 20,774 senior citizens daily to achieve the target by October 8.
The Philippines on Sunday recorded 4,621 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the active caseload to 37,805.
Also on Monday, the independent OCTA Research Group said COVID-19 positivity rates in Camarines Sur, and 14 other areas were “very high” as of Aug. 6.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested.
Camarines Sur had a positivity rate of 48.7 percent, a big jump from the 30.3 percent the province had on July 30.
The other areas which had “very high” (above 20 percent) positivity rates are: Isabela: 47.6 percent (from 35.7 percent on July 30); Tarlac: 41.9 percent (from 33.1 percent on July 30); Nueva Ecija: 38.4 percent (from 25.0 percent on July 30); Pampanga: 35.0 percent (from 23.3 percent on July 30); Laguna: 33.2 percent (from 30.9 percent on July 30); Cagayan: 30.5 percent (from 22.2 percent on July 30); La Union: 29.4 percent (from 24.0 percent on July 30); Zambales: 28.6 percent (from 27.1 percent on July 30); Albay: 28.2 percent (from 25.8 percent on July 30); Quezon: 25.1percnet (from 26.6 percent on July 30); Pangasinan: 25.0 percent (from 21.1 percent on July 30); Benguet: 22.0 percent (from 18.3 percent on July 30); Cavite: 21.1 percent (from 26.6 percent on July 30); and Rizal: 18.8 percent (from 21.3 percent on July 30).
The positivity rates, however, decreased in some areas in the one-week period from July 30 to August 6.
These areas are Bataan (from 20.8 percent to 13.2 percent), Batangas (from 15.7 percent to 15.2 percent), Cavite (from 26.6 percent to 21.1 percent), Ilocos Norte (from 10.4 percent to 9.9 percent), Quezon (from 26.6 percent to 25.1 percent), and Rizal (from 21.3 percent to 18.8 percent).
Ilocos Norte had the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate (9.9 percent) as of Aug. 6 among the areas reported.