MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippines on Thursday reported 6,637 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest in 4 days, as government officials continue to clash on the country's face shield policy amid mounting criticism.
The fresh cases pushed the country's total to 1,339,437, of which 58,407 or 4.4 percent are active, according to the Department of Health's (DOH) latest bulletin.
A total of 235 recovered cases, meanwhile, have been reclassified as active cases, the DOH added.
The ABS-CBN Investigative Research Group said the additional infections is the highest announced since June 13, when the health department logged 7,302 cases.
The research unit also pointed out that after 6 days of decline, the country's active infections increased by 1,897 from Wednesday's 56,510.
Active cases reported in the past days were adjusted for duplicate cases.
The DOH said 11.9 percent of the 44,425 individuals who underwent testing on Tuesday were found to be carriers of the virus.
Deaths increased by 155 to 23,276. The country breached 23,000 deaths on Wednesday.
This is the 3rd straight day that deaths counted more than 100, data showed.
The DOH noted that the additional deaths also included 107 cases first classified as recoveries.
Thursday's case fatality rate is at 1.74 percent, the highest since April 1, according to ABS-CBN Data Analytics head Edson Guido.
A total of 4,585 more patients recovered from the disease, raising the total recoveries to 1,257,774 or 93.9 percent of all recorded infections.
The ABS-CBN IRG said the fresh recoveries is considered the lowest in nearly a week or since June 11.
Twelve duplicates, 10 of which were recoveries, have been excluded from the cumulative total.
Five laboratories failed to submit testing results on time.
COVID-19 infections in the Visayas and Mindanao continued to rise, with some government officials blaming it to lack of COVID-19 vaccine supplies.
Provinces in central and southern Philippines accounted for nearly a third of new cases in the past two weeks, government data showed.
President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed tighter restrictions in 9 cities and 12 provinces, limiting the operating capacity of businesses and shutting down non-essential establishments, until the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Malacanang said Thursday night that the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 would recommend to Duterte to widen the use of face shields.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the IATF "resolved to recommend" to Duterte the mandatory wearing of face shields in "enclosed/indoor spaces of hospitals, schools, workplaces, commercial establishments (such as but not limited to food establishments, malls and public markets), public transport and terminals, and places of worship."
"While waiting for the President’s decision on the matter, the existing policy on the use of face shields remains in effect," added Roque.
The DOH earlier said face shields may be removed when outdoors, but must still be worn in closed spaces.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government said it was against the removal of face shields in open-air settings.
The government last week started implementing the phased inoculation of economic frontliners and poor Filipinos, in a bid to expand the COVID-19 vaccination program's coverage.
As of Sunday, the government was able to administer 6.948 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, nearly 1.89 million of which were second shots. The inoculation drive began March 1.
The ABS-CBN IRG said the number of fully vaccinated Filipinos accounts for 3.24 percent of the minimum 58 million government target.