MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines reported 237 fresh COVID-19 cases, the second-lowest daily tally so far this year, and 100 more deaths on Wednesday, the same day it announced detecting two omicron cases involving international travelers.
Of the newly confirmed infections, 215 or 91 percent occurred from Dec. 2 to 15, with Metro Manila, Northern Mindanao, and Western Visayas as top regions with cases in the recent two weeks, the Department of Health said.
This is the sixth straight day that new infections remained below 500, according to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.
So far, a total of 2,836,915 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the Philippines, of which 10,193 or 0.4 percent are active, based on the latest DOH bulletin.
The number of active cases is the lowest since May 25, 2020 when 10,033 were recorded, the ABS-CBN IRG said, citing DOH data adjusted for duplicate and reclassified cases.
The positivity rate was at 1.0 percent, based on test results of samples from 30,397 individuals on Dec. 13, Monday. On Tuesday, the country logged its lowest positivity rate at 0.9 percent since testing data became available in April 2020.
Health authorities and analysts have attributed the declining number of new cases observed since October to the widening vaccination coverage in the country.
They also keep reminding the public to follow the minimum health protocols amid the emergence of new variants, including the omicron. The new variant has 50 mutations, including 30 in the spike protein region, that might cause "increased transmissibility and immune evasion," according to the DOH.
A Filipino man who arrived from Japan last Dec. 1, and Nigerian man who arrived from his home country last Nov. 30 tested positive for the omicron variant last Dec. 7, the DOH said earlier in the day.
Both are currently asymptomatic and are isolated in a facility managed by the Bureau of Quarantine, the DOH added.
The delta variant is currently the dominant strain in the country, said Dr. Alethea de Guzman, director of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau.
Meanwhile, COVID-related deaths increased by 100 to 50,449.
Of the additional deaths, 14 occurred this month, 32 in November, 36 in October, six in September, six in August, two in July, one in June, and three in May, the DOH said, citing late encoding of information.
"This issue is currently being coordinated with the Epidemiology and Surveillance Units to ensure information is up to date," it said.
There are also 565 more recoveries, raising the total number of recuperations to 2,776,273.
Nine duplicates were removed from the total case count, including six recoveries and two deaths, while 96 cases previously tagged as recuperations were reclassified as deaths after final validation, according to the DOH.
The agency added that 181 cases were found to have tested negative and have been removed from the total case count. These cases were recoveries, it said.
Four laboratories were non-operational on Monday, while three others were unable to submit their data, the DOH said. These seven laboratories contribute on average 0.6 percent of samples tested and 0.8 percent of positive cases, it added.
The intensive care unit (ICU) bed utilization rate in Metro Manila and across the country was at 24 percent and 22 percent, respectively. The nationwide rate is the lowest since data became available, according to ABS-CBN Data Analytics Head Edson Guido.
The DOH said that of those still infected with the coronavirus, 391 are in critical condition, 1,867 are severe, and 3,492 are moderate cases. The rest include 3,876 mild cases and 567 who are asymptomatic.
The government has begun the second run of its "National Vaccination Days" in parts of Luzon, while some areas will hold the inoculation drive later this month due to the threat of severe tropical storm Odette.
The campaign aims to vaccinate some 7 million more people in a bid to fully inoculate 54 million against COVID-19 by yearend.
Some 41.5 million individuals have been fully vaccinated nationwide, while 54.91 million others have received an initial dose as of Monday, according to data gathered by the ABS-CBN IRG.