Philippines’ weekly COVID infections jump by 82%

FILIPINOS in face masks visit a market in Marikina City. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ WALTER BOLLOZOS

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

CORONAVIRUS infections in the Philippines rose by 82% to 3,051 in the past week from a week earlier, according to health authorities.

Of the total for June 13 to 19, less than 1% or 15 were critical, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin on Monday. Six more patients died.

The agency said 385 or 14.6% of the country’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds had been used as of June 19, while 4,033 or 18.2% of non-ICU beds were occupied.

It added that 554 severe and critical coronavirus patients or 10.2% of total admissions were staying in hospitals.

DoH said 70.03 million people had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of June 19, while 14.85 million people have received booster shots.

Manila, the capital and nearby cities would unlikely be placed under a moderate risk classification for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) soon despite rising infections, Edsel T. Salvana, a member of a DoH-led technical advisory group, told a televised news briefing.

“We’re still far from the parameters used by DoH in terms of moving from low risk to moderate risk,” he added.

The daily attack rate in Metro Manila was “a little bit above” one out of 100,000 cases, Mr. Salvana said. Under a moderate risk classification, the attack rate must be at least six out of 100,000, he added. 

The hospitalization rate in Metro Manila was still in the low 20s, when it should be 50% or above for it to be considered under a moderate risk classification.

“The actual number of cases is still manageable in terms of our healthcare capacity,” he added.

Metro Manila must post at least 800 coronavirus infections daily in the next two weeks before it can be placed under a moderate risk classification, Mr. Salvana said, citing the World Health Organization.

There is no indication that the government would be raising the alert in Metro Manila to Level 2 soon.

“There is really no indication that we should move to Alert Level 2 because, again, the ultimate objective of our alert level system is really to preserve the healthcare system.”

He noted that even as cases in the capital region have been steadily increasing, “the number of people who need urgent medical care, acute medical care in the hospitals is very, very low.”

Mr. Salvana partly traced the low hospitalization rate in Metro Manila to its high vaccination rate. 

Meanwhile, the government adviser said giving Filipinos a second COVID-19 booster shot now “does not make sense” because it would not benefit them.

“It is better for us to wait for newer formulated vaccines that target the Omicron variant,” he said. “So far, a second booster shot for the general population did not show significant benefits compared with the immunocompromised and the elderly.”

“For the general population, the benefit is not that big yet. Vaccines in the works may actually be more beneficial than giving a second booster to the general population,” he added.

“It will not make sense to give it to them just because the vaccines are about to expire.”

Mr. Salvana said the government should focus on ensuring that the fully vaccinated get their first top-up shot. “It is the first booster which has incremental, big benefits.”

“The vaccines are doing what they’re supposed to do,” the doctor said. “The uptick in cases is expected because of these new Omicron lineages that are entering the country, but it all remains manageable at this time because our healthcare utilization remains low.”

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