By Vann Marlo M. Villegas and
Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporters

PHILIPPINE health authorities on Monday reported 5,404 coronavirus infections, the highest daily tally since August as Manila, the capital and nearby cities started enforcing curfews amid a fresh spike in cases.

It was the highest reported in a day since Aug. 14, when the Department of Health (DoH) posted 6,216 cases, according to past health bulletins.

This brought the total to 626,893, the agency said. The death toll rose to 12,837 after eight more patients died, while recoveries increased by 71 to 560,577, it said in a bulletin.

There were 53,479 active cases, 92.4% of which were mild, 4% did not show symptoms, 1.4% were critical, 1.4% were severe and 0.73% were moderate.

The Health department said nine duplicates had been removed from the tally, while three recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit data on Mar. 14.

About 8.8 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Mar. 13, a year after most parts of the Philippines were locked down to contain the pandemic, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 120.5 million and killed 2.7 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 97 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said 193,492 health workers had been vaccinated as of Mar. 13. Metro Manila “performed quite well,” with 70% of its health workers getting the first dose.

British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc on Monday said its coronavirus vaccine is safe after reports of increased risk of blood clots.

It said a review of safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and United Kingdom did not show evidence of increased risk of blood clots in any age group, gender or batch in any particular country.

“Following a recent concern raised around thrombotic events, AstraZeneca would like to offer its reassurance on the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine based on clear scientific evidence,” it said.

AstraZeneca said there were no confirmed issues related to any batch of vaccines that were used.

The Philippines this month received 526,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under a global initiative for equal access. DoH said last week it would continue injecting people with AstraZeneca vaccines.

Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines due to blood clots in some people who got the vaccines, Reuters reported.

Also on Monday, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said about 10,000 policemen would be deployed on the streets of the capital region to enforce the curfew hours.

The government’s contact-tracing efforts had not reached the target ratio of 30 close contacts of a coronavirus patient for one contact tracer, he told an online news briefing.

Mr. Malaya said local governments’ contact-tracing ratio for coronavirus patients and their close contacts was at 1:6 or 1:7 even if more tracers got hired.

About 255,850 contact tracers were hired to identify people exposed to the coronavirus, he said. About 15,000 more tracers were hired for Metro Manila alone.

Mr. Malaya urged local executives to improve their contact tracing ratio to at least 1:15 to contain the virus.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque earlier said contact-tracing had been the weakest point in the government’s pandemic response.

The OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines on Sunday said COVID-19 daily infections could reach 8,000 by end-March and 20,000 by mid-April if the government fails to contain the pandemic.

It said infections in Metro Manila could hit as many as 6,000 by the end of the month and 14,000 by mid-April.

Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said the government would start this week an online tracking system for its vaccination drive.

Senator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel earlier asked the National Task Force on COVID-19 and the DoH to create a “vaccine tracker” to promote accountability after the Philippines received $900 million in loan commitments from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for its vaccination program.

Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. on Sunday said about 90% of coronavirus vaccines had been deployed in various parts of the country.

Pandemic plan deputy chief enforcer Vivencio B. Dizon had said the Philippine government had failed to vaccinate at least 250,000 Filipinos daily to meet its 50-million target this year due to supply problems.