MANILA -- (UPDATE) The Philippines on Friday announced a record-breaking 37,207 new COVID-19 cases, data from the health department showed, as the government opted to retain the capital region under Alert Level 3 until the end of January.
The positivity rate was at 47.3 percent, based on samples of 81,737 individuals on Jan. 12, Wednesday. This is the second highest figure since testing data became available, according to Edson Guido, head of the ABS-CBN Data Analytics Team.
Eight laboratories, which contribute on average 1.7 percent of samples tested and 2.5 percent of positive cases, were unable to submit their data, the DOH said.
Of the newly reported cases on Friday, 36,577 or 98 percent occurred within the recent 14 days, while Metro Manila NCR (16,824 cases), Calabarzon (8,580 cases) and Central Luzon (4,052 cases) were the top regions with cases in the recent two weeks, the DOH added.
The highest daily tallies so far were all announced in the recent 7 days for a total of nearly 220,000 cases reported, Guido said.
The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 3,129,512 COVID-19 cases, of which 265,509 or 8.5 percent were active infections, according to DOH data.
This is the highest number of active cases since the start of the pandemic, surpassing 237,387 active infections that the DOH announced Thursday, according to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.
Of the active cases, 252,502 or 95.10 percent were mild cases, 8,325 or 3.14 percent were asymptomatic, 2,913 or 1.1 percent were moderate cases, 1,469 or 0.55 percent were severe cases, and 300 or 0.11 percent were critical cases, according to the research group.
A "decoupling" is being observed in Metro Manila, where the increase in infections does not translate to an increase of severe and critical cases, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
COVID-related deaths increased by 81, resulting in a total of 52,815 fatalities. Of these new deaths, 21 occurred this month, 5 in December, 14 in October, 12 in September, 9 in August, 5 in July, 3 in June, 1 in May, 3 in April, 4 in March, 3 in February, and 1 in November 2020 due to late encoding of death information.
There were 9,027 more recoveries, raising the total number of recuperations to 2,811,188.
Some 104 duplicates, including 67 recoveries and 2 deaths, were removed from the total case count, while 58 cases previously tagged as recuperations were reclassified as deaths after final validation, the DOH said.
The intensive care unit (ICU) bed utilization rate in Metro Manila and nationwide was at 55 percent and 46 percent, respectively.
Metro Manila will remain under Alert Level 3, the third step in a 5-level system, as its healthcare utilization remains below 71 percent or moderate risk, according to presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles.
The DOH has recommended to prioritize health workers, the elderly and persons with comorbidities for COVID-19 testing to give them proper medicines as early as possible, said Vergeire.
The agency is also "working to lower the price" of confirmatory swab tests, which range from P2,000 to P3,000, as government funds for mass testing is better put to use for healthworkers' benefits, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
The government has also reduced the isolation period for the general public and health workers due to shorter infection period of the omicron variant.
Fully vaccinated individuals with mild symptoms must isolate for 7 days, while partially inoculated or unvaccinated persons must isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
For moderate cases, the requirement is 10 days regardless of the vaccination status, and for severe infections the mandate is 21 days.
Asymptomatic close contacts who are fully vaccinated must quarantine for 5 days; those not vaccinated must do so for 14 days.