PHL REMAINS ‘HIGH RISK’ FOR COVID-19 INFECTIONS; 3 more succumb to Omicron variant

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA/GENEVA/WASHINGTON – The Philippines remains under high risk for COVID-19 infections even as cases in Metro Manila and nearby areas are slowing down while other cities have increasing cases.

This developed as the Department of Health (DOH)  reported three more fatalities among the Omicron cases in the country, bringing the total to five. Omicron has been declared as dominant variant of the virus in the country with over 535 cases as of press time.

In a related development, at least 10 percent of overseas Filipinos arriving every day and who are quarantined at hotels test positive for COVID-19, according to the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ).

According to BOQ deputy director Roberto Salvador Jr., some 300 out of 3,000 Filipinos arriving daily over the past week were found carriers of the virus.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said Metro Manila is “ready” to deescalate to an Alert Level 2 status should the government decide for a less restrictive level by February.

Earlier, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 15,789 new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections and 32,712 recoveries.

The latest Covid-19 bulletin indicated 230,410 active cases while total recoveries rose to 3,191,219, or 91.8 percent of 3,475,293 infections since the pandemic started in March 2020.

Out of the active cases, 218,711 are mild, 2,982 are moderate, 6,902 are asymptomatic, 1,507 are severe, and 308 are critical.

“Of the 15,789 reported cases today, 15,061 (95 percent) occurred within the recent 14 days — Jan. 13 to Jan. 26, 2022,” the DOH reported.

The regions with the most cases in the recent two weeks were Region 4-A (Calabarzon), 2,248 or 15 percent; the National Capital Region (NCR) with 2,135 or 14 percent of new infections; and Central Visayas, 1,520 or 10 percent.

The death toll has reached 53,664 with 66 new deaths, representing 1.54 percent of overall cases.

“Of the 66 deaths, 65 occurred in January 2022 (98 percent), and 1 in August 2021 (2 percent) due to the late encoding of death information to COVIDKaya,” the DOH said.

Meanwhile,  new cases of COVID-19 in the Americas in the past week have been the highest since the pandemic began in 2020 with more than 8 million cases and 18,000 new deaths and the very contagious omicron variant has clearly become the predominant strain, the Pan American Health Organization said.

The United States continues to have the highest number of new infections, although cases decreased by nearly 1 million over the last week, according to PAHO.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization reported that globally, the number of new COVID-19 cases increased in the past week (17-23 January 2022) by 5%, while the number of new deaths remained similar to that reported during the previous week. Across the six WHO regions, over 21 million new cases were reported this week, representing the highest number of weekly cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic

Nearly 50 000 new deaths were also reported. As of 23 January 2022, over 346 million confirmed cases and over 5.5 million deaths have been reported worldwide

The risk level related to the Omicron variant remains very high, the WHO added.

“Over 21 million new cases were reported, representing the highest number of weekly cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic,” the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological coronavirus update.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said all five are individuals with comorbidities.

“Three are seniors and all have comorbidities. One partially vaccinated, one unvaccinated, and the remaining 3 are still for verification,” Vergeire said.

The DOH previously stressed that senior citizens, those with comorbidities, and unvaccinated individuals remain at risk against Omicron, a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“While Omicron mostly presents with asymptomatic and mild disease, our data shows that those most at risk for fatalities are still the elderly and those with comorbidities and unvaccinated,” the DOH said.

The first two deaths confirmed Omicron cases in the country involved unvaccinated senior citizens with pre-existing medical conditions. Oone of the first two fatalities was partially vaccinated.

The government is monitoring the growth rate of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in 22 areas outside Metro Manila, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, acting presidential spokesperson, said authorities are in close coordination with the regional Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and are looking closely at the following areas:  Calabarzon,  Central Luzon, Ilocos Region, Dagupan City,  Cordillera Administrative Region, Baguio City, Cebu Province, Cebu City, Lapu-lapu City, Mandaue City, Iloilo Province, Iloilo City and Bacolod City.

Also being monired are  Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City, General Santos City, Ormoc City, Naga City, Western Samar, Tacloban City, Biliran and Zamboanga del Sur.

“What we’re seeing now is while cases in Metro Manila and in fact some areas in Region 4-A and 3 are slowing down in terms of the growth rate, we’re seeing higher growth rates in those (abovementioned) areas,” he said.