The Department of Health said Monday it had detected nine carriers of the B.1.1.7 variant—first found in the United Kingdom—in Cagayan Valley.
"This might explain why cases are increasing in Tuguegarao," DOH Spokesperson and Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press conference.
"We will submit samples for whole genome sequencing so we can see the trend why it is spiralling,” Vergeire said.
As of May 16, the Cagayan region has reported 2,835 active cases, nearly all of whom are residents of Cagayan province and Isabela.
Studies showed that the UK variant had a reproduction rate 1.35 times higher than normal coronavirus variants.
Vergeire said adequate COVID-19 vaccines had been deployed to the region and their utilization rate was also high.
As of May 11, Cagayan received 71,440 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the national government, according to data from the DOH.
Cagayan region has used 94.7 percent of these doses, the DOH said.
So far, 67,653 people from Cagayan have received their first jab, while 10,779 others have been fully vaccinated, it said.
The condition of four Filipinos infected with the COVID-19 variant first detected in India was being closely monitored by the Department of Health.
On Monday, the DOH said the seafarers are still confined in hospitals.
Of the 12 carriers of the variant, one is still intubated, while three others continue to rely on oxygen support in some hospitals in Metro Manila, Vergeire said in an online press conference.
She said studies earlier showed that the India variant carried mutations that allowed it to get past the immune system and become more transmittable.
She said the patients infected with the B.1.617 variant "are being retested today" to see if they have recuperated from COVID-19.
Of the 12 known carriers of the India variant, 9 were seafarers aboard the MV Athens, 2 traveled from Belgium through a connecting flightfrom the United Arab Emirates, while another came from Oman.
The Philippines logged on Monday 5,979 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing the total to 1,149,925, the Department of Health reported.
All laboratories were operational on May 15, 2021 while five labs were not able to submit their data to the COVID-19 Document Repository System.
The DOH also reported 54,235 active cases, which is 4.7 percent of the total. Of the active cases, 93.3 percent were mild; 2 percent were asymptomatic; 1.4 percent were critical; 2 percent were severe; and 1.25 percent were moderate.
The DOH also reported 72 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 19,262, or 1.68 percent of the total cases.
Jabs in hot spots
Meanwhile, the government now aims to inoculate 58 million people living in COVID-19 hotspots in a bid to achieve herd immunity.
Malacañang identified these hotspots as Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal.
The “expansion areas” include Regions 1 to 13, the Cordillera Administrative Region, and the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Baguio, Zamboanga, Bacolod, Iloilo, General Santos, and Iligan.
Local chief executives have also been bumped up to vaccination priority group A1.5.
The vaccination of some mayors in March had caused controversy as they were not yet included in the priority sectors for COVID-19 inoculation at the time.
The healthcare utilization rate in the National Capital Region has gone down after a spike in COVID-19 cases that overwhelmed hospitals in the region, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.
Vergeire said Metro Manila’s healthcare utilization rate had gone down to 48 percent.
The figure refers to the occupancy of intensive care units (ICU), isolation and ward beds.
Vergeire said the utilization rate of ICU beds had also decreased to 61 percent from a high of 88 percent during the peak of the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Despite this and the loosening of quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and neighboring areas, Vergeire said local governments and the public must not let their guard down.
Physicians belonging to the Philippine Medical Association have raised grave concern on “the repeated and unfounded criticisms” against doctors in social media amid reports of malpractice and negligence cases being brought by patients against them related to the treatment of COVID-19.
“The PMA wishes to reiterate the time-honored principle that doctors mean no harm and their sole motivation is merely to treat patients with the best, available, most effective and affordable medicines and medical procedures,” PMA president Dr. Benito Atienza said.
“Doctors and other healthcare workers are at the forefront of confronting this pandemic. Bashing of doctors in social media and filing of cases against doctors who treat patients afflicted with COVID-19 may lead to the reluctance of some doctors to treat patients afflicted with COVID-19,” the PMA’s statement read.