Philippines logs 889 new COVID-19 cases, highest in a month amid omicron threat

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2021 04:14 PM | Updated as of Dec 29 2021 05:25 PM

Visitors flock to the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on Christmas Day, Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Visitors flock to the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on Christmas Day, Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

 DOH cites increased holiday mobility, not omicron, amid spike in new infections

MANILA (UPDATE)— The Philippines on Wednesday confirmed 889 additional COVID-19 cases, the highest in over a month, with the health ministry attributing the spike to increased movement due to the holidays.

The daily tally is considered the highest since Nov. 27, according to ABS-CBN Data Analytics head Edson Guido. 

Positivity rate is at 4.5 percent, based on test results of samples received from 27,615 individuals on Monday. 

Guido said the positivity rate is the highest since Nov. 10. He observed the rise in the past week, from a 1.1 positivity rate on Dec. 21.

Of the 2,839,790 total recorded cases in the country, 10,418 or 0.4 percent are active, which, according to Guido, is the highest since Dec. 14.

Of those still infected with the virus, 374 are in critical condition while 1,778 are severely ill.

Intensive care unit bed utilization in Metro Manila is at 23 percent, while it is 20 percent across the country, the DOH said in its latest COVID bulletin.

Ventilators in the capital region are 14 percent used up, and 12 percent nationwide.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters that the spike in new cases was due to the "holiday-related mobility" and the "reduced" compliance of the public with the minimum health protocols.

"We are continuously monitoring the situation, though we cannot still be certain that the increase in cases is due to the Omicron Variant," she said.

"We are calling on the public and the LGUs to ensure safety protocols are implemented and every Filipino is vaccinated."

Meanwhile, there were also 28 more deaths due to the respiratory disease, raising the total number of fatalities to 51,241. 

Twenty-five of the day's newly announced fatalities were first classified as recoveries, the DOH said. 

Recoveries increased by 214 to 2,778,131.

Three laboratories failed to submit data, two of which were not operational. 

Independent research group OCTA this week said the uptick in COVID-19 cases could not be attributed yet to the impact of the omicron variant, four cases of which have so far been detected in the country.

Omicron is behind rapid virus spikes in several countries, including those where it has already overtaken the previously dominant delta variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. 

Studies have shown that the omicron variant is more transmissible than the delta variant, which stretched the country's health care capacity last August.

Its severity, however, is still being studied. 

The WHO said early data from Britain, South Africa and Denmark — which currently has the world's highest rate of infection per person —suggested there was a reduced risk of hospitalization for omicron compared to delta.

Philippine vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. this week said that in case of a surge in new coronavirus infections due to omicron, granular lockdowns would be implemented. 

The country races against time to fully vaccinate at least 54 million of its target population by this year, amid the emergence of the said variant of concern. 

As of Tuesday, Philippine authorities were able to fully immunize 63 percent of its target 77.1 million individuals. The country's inoculation rollout started on March 1. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse

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