W.H.O. WARNS OF ‘TSUNAMI’ OF COVID CASES; PHL experts, others urge caution

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA/WASHINGTON – Health officials and the independent research group OCTA have reported a rising positivity rate of COVID-19 case in the Philippines even as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a “tsunami” of omicron and delta COVID-19 cases as global health systems are being stretched to their limits with uptick of cases in Europe and other areas.

In the United States, the average number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases has hit a record high of 258,312 over the past seven days.

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States showing the highest daily infection numbers  included New York, which reported 40,780 cases, and California, which reported over 30,000. Texas reported more than 17,000 cases and Ohio over 15,000.

During the week December 20-26, following a gradual increase since October, the global number of new COVID-19 cases increased by 11% as compared to the previous week; while the number of new deaths remained similar to numbers reported during the previous week, according to WHO.

“This corresponds to just under 5 million new cases and over 44 000 new deaths. As of 26 December, over 278 million cases and just under 5.4 million deaths have been reported globally,” WHO added.

The OCTA Research Team expressed alarm over the rising COVID-19 positivity rate in the Philippines, adding its rapid increase is “worrying.”

The Department of Health confirmed the uptick and said cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) are expected to increase due to holiday-related mobility.

Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the uptick in the number of infections was also caused by reduced compliance to the minimum public health standards.

“We are continuously monitoring the situation, though we cannot still be certain that the increase in cases is due to the Omicron variant,” she said. “We are calling on the public and the LGUs (local government units) to ensure safety protocols are implemented and every Filipino is vaccinated”.

On December 29, the DOH reported 889 new infections, more than 50 percent higher compared to the 421 cases reported on Tuesday, bringing the country’s overall tally to 2,839,790.

Meantime, the death toll has reached 51,241 with 28 new deaths.

A health official  reiterated the need for the Filipinos to avail themselves of the Covid-19 vaccination program now that a fourth case of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) coronavirus variant has been detected in the country, two of them from two arrivals from New York.

The OCTA Research Group said late Tuesday night that the positivity rate in the National Capital Region has increased by 5 percent for the first time since October.

Positivity rate is the percentage of Covid-19 tests performed which turned out positive in a certain area or region.

The group reminded the public to observe the proper health protocols as the increase may not just be a holiday uptick.

OCTA Research Team fellow Guido David noted the positivity rate logged on December 28, or the ratio of people testing positive of COVID-19, was at 4.5 percent, based on test results of samples received from 27,615 individuals on Monday.

“Most likely it will continue to increase,” David said as he  projected that after the New Year, the country will likely log at least 2,000 new COVID-19 cases daily.

The surge of cases in the US comes as Americans travel over the holidays. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled across the country each day since Christmas as airline staff test positive for the coronavirus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which  was also monitoring 86 cruise ships that have reported COVID-19 cases.

The WHO said the delta and omicron variants of concern were “twin threats” that were driving new case numbers to record highs, leading to spikes in hospitalizations and deaths.

The WHO said new global cases had risen by 11 percent last week, while the United States and France both registered record daily case numbers on Wednesday.

“I am highly concerned that omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference.

“This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers, and health systems on the brink of collapse,” he added.