New infections top 17K; ‘fourth surge’ under way
The number of COVID-19 cases in the country soared to 17,220, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Thursday as it reported 29 more cases of the more transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, said the country is now into its “fourth surge” since the pandemic struck the country in early 2020.
The DOH said that 11,563 of the new cases, or 68 percent, were in the National Capital Region (NCR).
This number topped the previous high during the Delta surge, which was 9,031 in NCR on Sept. 11, 2021, according to independent pandemic monitor OCTA Research.
“We are now on a surge. And our projection is we will even surpass the cases during the Delta surge,” Limpin told the Inquirer.
She cited the “steep” rise in the number of cases compared to the previous surges.
In September last year, Limpin described the first spikes in cases in April 2020 as just a “wave.” But a “surge” followed four months later that peaked at 4,300 daily cases.
The next surge occurred in April 2021, peaking at 11,000 average daily cases and the “most severe” one was in August-September 2021, she said.
Yet to peak
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the current hikes in the number of cases could rise to more than those recorded during the Delta surge as Omicron was eight times more transmissible. The cases could peak by the end of the month, she said.
OCTA fellow Guido David said he was also assuming that there were local transmissions of the Omicron variant because of the “very high and rapid increase of cases,” but it was still “too early to tell” when the cases would peak.
“Maybe next week, or by the end of January or it may even take longer than that. It also depends on what we do, what our people do in the pandemic,” he said. “Worst case scenario it would peak by mid-February, if we follow the trajectory of previous surges.”
David earlier projected that Metro Manila, whose positivity rate was already 45 percent as of Jan. 4, could break its COVID-19 case record on Thursday with 10,000 to 11,000 new daily cases. He said the country was likely to exceed 20,000 new cases by Friday.
OVP mobile testing
During its mobile antigen testing in Quezon City on Wednesday, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) found 373 out of 813 people positive for COVID-19.
Vice President Leni Robredo said the nearly 46-percent positivity rate was the highest they had recorded since they started the free Swab Cab program last year.The OVP said those who tested positive were to undergo a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test and taken to a local isolation facility.
Positives at PSG
The Presidential Security Group (PSG) also reported that 15 of its members had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
PSG commander Col. Randolph Cabangbang said President Duterte was safe as he had no exposure to any of them.
Cabangbang said the PSG personnel underwent a seven-day mandatory quarantine after coming back from their holiday break and then underwent RT-PCR tests.All of them had been vaccinated and are showing no symptoms, he said.
According to the DOH, the current national positivity rate was 36.9 percent based on 59,847 people who were tested on Tuesday.
The positivity rate is the percentage of people found positive for the coronavirus out of the total number tested during a certain period.
First since September ’21
The World Health Organization’s standard indicator that coronavirus transmission is under control is a positivity rate of 5 percent or below.The last time the country saw more than 17,000 cases was on Sept. 27, 2021, when 18,449 new infections were reported.
The DOH said the 29 new Omicron cases raised the total number of this coronavirus variant of concern to 43.
Ten of them were returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) while 19 were local cases with NCR addresses.
Of the 19 local cases, 14 are still active, three have recovered, and the status of the two others are still being verified, the DOH said.
The new Omicron cases were detected by the Philippine Genome Center on Jan. 2 from 48 sample specimens—19 from ROFs and 29 from locals in areas with case clusters.
Aside from the new Omicron cases, there were 18 others that were found positive for the also contagious Delta, bringing the total for this variant to 8,497.
Eight of them were ROFs and the 10 others were local cases who caught the Delta variant and had NCR addresses.
“The DOH strongly encourages eligible individuals, especially our senior citizens, those with comorbidities, and children to get vaccinated and boosted immediately. Vaccines are still our best defense and proven to be safe, effective and free,” it said.
It encouraged the public to isolate immediately at the earliest signs of symptoms and have themselves tested.
99% in last 2 weeks
According to the DOH, the 17,220 new cases brought the country’s total caseload to 2,888,917. It said 99 percent of the new cases were reported in the last two weeks.
Next to NCR, Calabarzon and Central Luzon also reported large numbers of cases.
Of the 56,561 active cases, 49,988 were mild, 1,837 asymptomatic, 2,954 moderate, 1,470 severe and 312 critical.
The DOH reported 616 recoveries, bringing the total number of survivors of the severe respiratory disease to 2,780,613.
The 81 fatalities raised the death toll to 51,743. Only six deaths occurred this month, while the rest were recorded between May and December last year and reported on Thursday due to late encoding in the COVIDKAYA case collection system.
The new cases did not include figures from 11 laboratories which failed to submit their test results. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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