PHL LOGS THOUSANDS MORE COVID-19 CASES Reports first 2 deaths from Omicron variant

By ALFRED GABOT
Editor in Chief
MANILA – Thousands more of COVID-19 cases have been logged over the past days by the Department of Health as it reported two people were the first to have died from the omicron variant which has become the dominant variant in the country.

In Geneva, meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over with Omicron strain spreading, as France, Germany and Brazil posted new records of infections.

Both fatalities were in their late 60s, unvaccinated and with pre-existing health conditions and were  among 492 additional cases, 160 of which were traced to 160 returning overseas Filipinos and 332 local infections, bringing the country’s total of the highly transmissible variant to 535.

The high detection rate of the variant, equivalent to nearly 69 percent of the 715 samples sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center from January 13 to 14 now classified it the most dominant variant in the country.

Regions were Omicron infections were detected include Central Visayas, Cagayan Valley, Western Visayas, Davao, Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), and the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao.

On January 19, the Department of Health reported 22,958 new COVID-19 infections, pushing the total to 3,293,635.

The regions with the highest number of new cases during that period were Metro Manila (7,861 or 36%), Calabarzon (4,647 or 21%) and Central Luzon (2,049 or 9%).

The death toll surpassed 53,000 and is now at 53,044 – which is 1.61% of the COVID-19 count – after 82 more people lost their lives to the disease. Of the 82 additional deaths, 56 occurred this month, while 26 occurred last year: eight in October, 15 in September, and one each in July, May and January.

The health department said positivity rate is still high at 43.5% based on 62,531 tests reported on Jan. 17.

According to the World Health Organization, positivity rates should fall below 5% for countries to reopen.

While the growth rates in Metro Manila and nearby provinces have slowed down,  the numbers are “still accelerating” in several cities in the rest of the country, according to the OCTA Research Group fellow Guido David.

For the Jan. 12 to 18 period, David said the growth rate in Metro Manila was at 10% while the reproduction number in the region stood at 2.07.

The OCTA Group said  Tacloban, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga have logged growth rates higher than 100%.

Despite the observed downward trends in Metro Manila, David still urged residents to remain vigilant and continue to follow health protocols, with the country still categorized as critical risk for COVID-19.

Other developments:

1.    The Philippines is eyeing to fully vaccinate 77 million Filipino adults against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) before the scheduled elections in May. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that the government is aiming to complete the vaccine doses of all voters as an added layer of protection against severe Covid-19. About 67.5 million Filipinos, including 1.7 million overseas, are registered to vote in the upcoming polls.
2      The National Capital Region (NCR) has not yet reached the threshold to trigger an Alert Level 4 escalation as it maintains a below 70 percent bed utilization rate, Malacañang said. Based on government parameters, Alert Level 4 is declared when an area’s Covid-19 average daily attack rate (ADAR) and two-week growth rate reach high levels, and its health care utilization rate hits the 70 percent mark.
3. The latest genome sequencing  found 115 more delta variant cases, of which 88 were local and 27 were returning Filipinos, the DOH said. The new figure brings the total number of detected delta variant cases in the country to 8,612. An additional alpha variant case, meantime, has been tagged as recovered, the DOH added