THE Philippines has surpassed its record of 7,000 new cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in a single day after it logged close to 8,000 new infections on Saturday, the Department of Health (DoH) said.
This developed as the government announced that it would start its vaccination for the general public “most likely” in May with the arrival of more doses.
The DoH said the 7,999 Covid count raises the total number of cases to 656,056, from which another record-high 80,642 are active. Of the total, 98 percent are mild, moderate or asymptomatic while the rest are severe or critical.
The positivity rate is at 14.6 percent, with 4,390 out of the 30,131 samples tested yielding positive results.
There are a total of 562,484 recoveries, including 597 new survivors.
Thirty more individuals have been added to the death toll that now totals 12,930.
The country ranks 30th across the globe in terms of the total number of Covid-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Guido David, Octa Research group’s senior fellow, warned that the “record-breaking” increase was just the start of an upward trend in the number of cases in the country.
In a television interview on Saturday, David said Octa’s projection of at least 10,000 cases by the end of March could happen if there would be no “significant changes in the trends.”
The group, which has been tracking the number of cases in the country since the beginning of the pandemic, has pushed for a “hard” general community quarantine (GCQ) or a “soft” modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to curb the surge.
David said the government’s stricter quarantine measures were in line with the “hard GCQ.”
He added that most of the interventions would be felt weeks after they have been enforced.
He also warned that hospitals across the National Capital Region (NCR) might experience full capacity in two weeks.
As of March 18, the DoH said the current hospital capacity rate in the NCR was at 55.4 percent of 8,214 beds in the region.
Of the total number of beds, 4,552 are currently occupied. This consists of 511 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, 2,677 isolation beds and 1,364 ward beds, the DoH said.
There are also 857 ventilators available, of which 400 are in use, it said.
Of the 151 hospitals in the NCR, there are 88 hospitals that are still in the “safe zone,” which means they are less than 60 percent occupied while 59 others are now considered “high-risk to critical,” which means they are 70 percent occupied.
The DoH said the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), for example, has a 186-bed capacity for Covid-19 patients. It has, so far, admitted 164 for an 88.2 percent occupancy rate.
Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Philippines is set to receive 5 to 8 million doses of vaccines by May, which include private sector-procured vaccines, some 200,00 doses of Moderna jabs, and two million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac.
With only about 1.1 million Covid-19 shots so far, the government’s vaccination drive that started on March 1 has prioritized the country’s 1.7 million health workers, 292,677 of whom have been inoculated.
Galvez, chief implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, said the task force was drafting a proposal to adopt the Program Evaluation and Review Technique and Critical Path Method model, which would allow the government to simultaneously launch the vaccination of other priority sectors, particularly the economic frontliners, through the help of the private sector.
Galvez said in Filipino that once “full mobilization” is achieved, “we are expecting to increase our vaccination rate to 100,000 a day or even 250,000 a day”.
The priority groups for the vaccination were identified by the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group.
Under the vaccination roadmap, the government will facilitate the vaccination of individuals under the A1 to A3 priority groups.
A1 category includes frontliners from private and public health institutions; health professionals; non-professionals such as students, nursing aides, janitors; village health workers; and national and local government front-liners.
The A2 category covers senior citizens while falling under A3 are individuals with comorbidities.
The private sector will facilitate the inoculation of Filipinos under the A4 priority group, such as uniformed personnel and other essential frontliners.
The government aims to inoculate 70 percent of the total population, or about 70 million Filipinos, before the end of the year.
This will supposedly trigger “herd immunity,” a form of indirect protection when a sufficient percentage of the population becomes immune to an infectious disease.
100 new variant cases
Meanwhile, the DoH has detected additional cases of Covid-19 variants in the country among the new batch of sequenced samples from the University of the Philippines- Philippine Genome Center.
Based on the 150 sequenced samples mostly from the NCR, there were 46 additional B117 variant cases, 62 additional B1351 cases, and six additional P.3 variant cases detected.
The B117 variant was first discovered in the United Kingdom, while the B1351 variant was also discovered in South Africa. Both variants have the characteristics of increased transmissibility and possible loss of efficacy among the vaccines currently under emergency use.
Thirty-six of the 46 B117 variant cases are local cases from the NCR, while two of them are returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and eight are still being verified if they are either local or ROF cases.
Out of the 62 B1351 cases, 43 were local cases and 19 are still being verified.
In total, the number of B117 cases since the first detection in January is at 223, while 152 are B1351 cases.
On the six P.3 variant cases, which are all currently active, two are being verified and four were confirmed local cases, all of them from the NCR.
The DoH has continued to remind the people that the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to avoid closed and crowded spaces and close contact settings, as well as follow minimum public health standards.