The positivity rate for COVID-19 rose significantly in four provinces last week, the independent OCTA Research Group said Monday, even as health experts warned of more cases owing to the recent detection of Omicron subvariant BF.7, which is reported to be fueling the surge of cases in China.
Albay, Ilocos Sur, Kalinga, and Pampanga saw more cases before Christmas, OCTA reported, with the seven-day positivity rate the highest in Ilocos Sur at 44.8 percent on Dec. 24, up from 30.6 percent on Dec. 17. This was followed by Kalinga with 41.7 percent from the previous 26.2 percent.
The positivity rate also climbed in Albay from 23.3 percent on Dec. 17 to 35.4 percent on Dec. 24. Pampanga recorded a positivity rate of 17 percent from the previous 12.5 percent.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19 out of all who are tested. This rate also rose in Batangas, Bulacan, Ilocos Norte, Nueva Ecija, and Quezon.
But Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI) president Dr. Jose Rene de Grano said Monday there is a possibility that new COVID-19 infections will rise again considering the recent detection of Omicron subvariant BF.7, and the gathering of people over Christmas.
De Grano said the new subvariant may be more transmissible and may cause severe infection.
Another health expert, Dr. Tony Leachon, also said the new variant was a cause for concern.
“Well, that is a concern considering that we are not having accurate information coming from China and China has a past history of not disclosing the number of cases [and] the number of deaths,” Leachon told ANC’s “Headstart”.
The former adviser of the Philippine government’s coronavirus task force noted the delay of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the Chinese outbreak of COVID-19 in January 2020, which he said led to the global pandemic.
“We have around 2 million Chinese visitors every year and because of the lack of solid plans in terms of the procurement of the bivalent vaccines, which can address the old Wuhan strain and the new variants, this may be a concern,” Leachon added.
Daily new COVID-19 infections in China are believed to have reached several hundred million based on figures released by regional authorities, amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus since the government significantly relaxed its strict antivirus measures earlier this month, Kyodo News reported.
The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Friday that four cases of the Omicron subvariant BF.7 have been detected in the Philippines.
The agency said, however, that current evidence does not suggest any difference in severity or clinical manifestations between the BF.7 and the original Omicron variant.
On the other hand, the positivity rate continued to decline in the National Capital Region (NCR) from 13.9 percent on Dec. 17, to 11.5 percent on Dec. 24.
Bataan, Benguet, Cagayan, Camarines Sur, Cavite, Isabela, La Union, Mountain Province, Pangasinan, Rizal, Tarlac, and Zambales also recorded decreases in their positivity rate.
Based on recent data from the DOH, NCR still recorded the greatest number of COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks with 4,887 cases.
Next was Calabarzon with 2,181; Central Luzon with 1,507; Western Visayas with 573; and Cagayan Valley with 464.
The DOH on Sunday reported 666 new COVID-19 cases on Christmas Day, the lowest single-day tally in five days.
The report also marks the third straight day of fewer than 1,000 new daily cases and brought the Philippines’ total cases to 4,061,663.
Active cases decreased by 552 cases to 15,937, the lowest in more than five months since the 14,862 active cases on July 13.
Total recoveries increased by 1,234 to 3,980,490, the second straight day in which there were more new recoveries tallied than new cases.
Total deaths increased by 21 to 65,236, the fourth straight day of more than 20 new deaths recorded.
The region with the most COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks was Metro Manila with 4,887 cases, followed by Calabarzon with 2,181; Central Luzon with 1,507; Western Visayas with 573; and Cagayan Valley with 464.
Nationwide COVID-19 bed occupancy is at 13.7 percent, with 5,042 beds occupied and 31,845 vacant.
On Monday, Senator Christopher Go urged the government to await the advice of health experts before deciding whether to lift the state of public emergency.
“It may be premature as of now. Let us wait for studies by health experts and I’m sure it will be based on good science,” said Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health.
The DOH stated in October that if three requirements are met, including a plateauing of cases, increased immunization coverage, and a low number of severe and critical hospital admissions, it may recommend to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the lifting of the state of the public health emergency.