By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported 3,356 coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to 597, 763.

The death toll rose to 12,521 after five more patients died, while recoveries increased by 61 to 545, 912, it said in a bulletin.

There were 39,330 active cases, 2% of which were critical, 91.2% were mild, 4% did not show symptoms, 2% were severe and 0.83% were moderate.

DoH said five duplicates had been removed from the tally, two of which were reclassified as recoveries. Six laboratories failed to submit data on Mar. 7.

Meanwhile, the agency said the surge in COVID-19 infections in Manila, the capital and nearby cities could not be traced solely to variants of the virus.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said the rise could have been due to Filipinos’ failure to comply with health protocols. “We can’t say that the variants were to blame solely for the increase,” she told an online news briefing in Filipino on Monday.

Coronavirus cases in the capital region have been rising faster, hitting levels last seen in July, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said on Sunday.

There had been 1,025 infections daily in the capital region in the past seven days, 42% higher than a week earlier and more than double the number two weeks ago, it said. The number could still go up this month.

They noted a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in Metro Manila on Mar. 6, when DoH reported 1,464 new infections. This could be due to the spread of coronavirus variants that are more contagious, they said.

OCTA Research said the infection surge in Metro Manila could undermine the government’s vaccination program.

OCTA Research said Pasay, Makati, Malabon and Navotas were high-risk areas. Pasay had the highest daily attack rate at 30 for 100,000 people.

Makati City had used 80% of its hospital beds, while Quezon City, Taguig, Malabon, Muntinlupa and Pateros had used more than 60%, OCTA said. Las Piñas and Mandaluyong exceeded 70%.

Metro Manila’s overall hospital bed occupancy was 44% and 53% for its intensive care units. Only Valenzuela showed a decline in infections from Feb. 28 to March 6, it said.

But Ms. Vergeire said the term “surge” should not be used just yet because scientific evidence is needed to validate the phenomenon.

She said healthcare use in the region was still manageable and could still accommodate almost 50% of COVID-19 patients.

DoH has recorded 118 cases of the more transmissible United Kingdom variant and 58 cases of the South African variant.

The National Capital Region posted the highest number of infections with the variants, with 28 cases of the one from the UK and 45 cases of the South African variant. Meanwhile, senators urged the government to boost measures to curb infections.

Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva called for a stricter implementation of health protocols. “It is very alarming and we need to take extra precautions once more,” he said in a statement. “We have to go back to observing social distancing as the new variants are reportedly more infectious,” he added.

Senator Grace Poe-Llmanzares said the government must fast-track the delivery of coronavirus vaccines to address the “alarming surge.”

“We should vaccinate faster than the virus can spread,” she said in a separate statement. “This is taking into account that the supply of the government-procured and donated doses will reach the Philippines on time.”

“We count on the task force to continue equitable negotiations for the purchase of safe and efficient vaccines, complemented by a smooth implementation of the inoculation program,” she added.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson urged local government units (LGUs) to determine specific areas “where the surges occur or are evident, so that extra control measures and closer supervision can be instituted immediately.”

With the surge, the role of LGUs “becomes indispensable since they are the closest to the potential spreaders, not to mention their familiarity with the people in their localities,” he said in a statement.