MANILA (UPDATED) — The Philippines' total COVID-19 cases breached the 1 million mark on Monday with 8,929 new infections, as the country struggles to cope with another virus surge that pushed hospitals in the capital region near the breaking point.
The country is the 26th in the world to reach the grim milestone, and the 2nd in Southeast Asia, the running tally from Johns Hopkins University showed.
The Philippines breached the 800,000 mark, the 900,000 mark and the 1 million mark all in the same month, according to the ABS-CBN Data Analytics Head Edson Guido.
The day's newly reported cases pushed the country's overall tally to 1,006,428, according to the Department of Health (DOH), with 74,623 remaining as active infections. The number of active cases is the lowest since March 21, according to Guido.
The tally does not include data from 2 laboratories that failed to submit results on time.
Of those still battling the disease, 95.4 percent are experiencing mild symptoms, 1.4 percent are asymptomatic, 0.87 percent have moderate symptoms, 1.3 percent are severely ill, while 1 percent are in critical condition, the latest bulletin showed.
The virus claimed 70 more lives, bringing the death toll to 16,853. The newly reported deaths is the lowest since April 8’s 60 deaths, according to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group. The higher number of deaths had been attributed to the increased number of cases.
Recoveries, meanwhile, increased by 11,333 to 914,952. Recovered cases account for 90.2 percent of the country's total recorded cases.
"Tama, nalampasan na natin yung 1 million mark. Pero, dapat din siguro alamin natin na ang total recoveries natin, nasa ... Mataas ang recovery rate natin... So, siguro mas magandang yun ang tingnan natin para mas positive," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(It's correct, we've exceeded the 1 million mark. But we should also highlight our total recoveries. Our recovery rate is high. So, it's better to look at that.)
The country has been logging thousands of new recoveries daily since last week, as the health department veered away from weekly "mass recovery" tagging to supposedly address skewed data.
A total of 23 cases, 18 tagged as recoveries, were removed from the official tally due to duplicate entries.
There was 1 case, also tagged as recovery, that was removed from the tally after being found to be negative of COVID-19.
The DOH said it had to reclassify 27 recovered patients that were found to have died after final validation.
The DOH on Monday morning confirmed that it is seeing a slight decline in the 7-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases in the country.
It has also seen a decline in the utilization rate of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, although this is due to the expansion of beds in one hospital.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this should not make Filipinos complacent as hospitals are still facing challenges.
The DOH had also said it favors the extension of current quarantine restrictions to keep the number of cases stable.
"Nakikita naman natin, bumabagal na talaga yung pagtaas ng kaso. And in fact, sa NCR, malinaw na nagsimula nang bumaba ang kaso. Pero, hindi lang po yun ang ating tinitingnan," said Duque.
(We've seen the slowing down of new infections. And in fact, in the National Capital Region, this is already evident. But we are not only considering this.)
He said the ICU beds utilization is still at 86 percent, which is within the critical risk level.
Meanwhile, the country continues to struggle to get a hold of fresh vaccine supplies or deliveries, and has only administered over 1.6 million doses from the 2 brands it have so far since its rollout started in March.
Based on government data as of April 22, nearly 1.4 Filipinos have been vaccinated against COVID-19, still far from the target 70 million to achieve herd immunity.
NEW CASES YET TO FLATTEN DESPITE OVER YEAR-LONG LOCKDOWNS
Metro Manila and neighboring provinces Rizal, Laguna, Bulacan, and Cavite— collectively called "NCR Plus"— were also placed under modified enhanced community quarantine until April 30 to contain the alarming spike of COVID-19 infections, a bulk of which came from these areas.
The bubble had previously been under the stricter enhanced community quarantine for two weeks.
While the DOH has mainly attributed the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks to non-compliance with health protocols, it has also recognized how the presence of more transmissible variants may have contributed to the quick spread of the virus.
The Philippines was the first country in Asia to go under a nationwide lockdown, and broad restrictions and movement curbs saw its economy slump 9.5 percent last year, its worst economic contraction on record.
Despite being placed under lockdowns since late March last year, the Philippines has yet to flatten the number of new cases, with the World Health Organization saying the country is still in its first COVID-19 wave.
A Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China in January last year was the Philippines' first COVID-19 case. The disease is believed to have first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.
The first COVID-19 death outside of China, was also recorded in the Philippines last year.
There are almost 59.2 million people currently infected with COVID-19 worldwide. Since the start of the pandemic, 147.2 million people have contracted the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus dashboard. Of those, 3.1 million have died and 84.9 million have recovered.
— With reports from Job Manahan and Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News; Reuters