THE Labor department has declared COVID-19 as a compensable disease through ECC Board Resolution 21-04-14. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

HEALTH AUTHORITIES reported 12,021 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest in more than four months, bringing the country’s total to 1.69 million.

The Health department placed more areas under the highest alert classification due to their increasing number of coronavirus cases and hospital utilization rates.

The death toll rose to 29,374 after 154 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 9,591 to 1.58 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 81,399 active cases, 94.8% of which were mild, 1.5% were asymptomatic, 1.6% were severe, 1.15% were moderate and 1% were critical.

The agency said 137 duplicates were removed from the tally, 129 of which were recoveries. Three recoveries were reclassified as active cases, while 122 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. The agency said three laboratories failed to submit data on Aug. 9.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Pateros, Quezon City, Taguig, Malabon, Makati, San Juan, Valenzuela, Marikina and Navotas in Metro Manila were placed under alert level four, the health department’s highest level based on the acuteness of coronavirus cases and health utilization rates.

Several areas in Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Soccsksargen were also placed under the same alert level.

“While their case trends are not that high, their health care utilization are at more than 70%,” Ms. Vergeire said in mixed English and Filipino.

The Health official said 58.3% of the 37,000 beds dedicated to coronavirus patients nationwide were already occupied.

The utilization of intensive care units (ICUs) in Metro Manila may reach 70% or may be put in the high-risk classification before Aug. 15, the OCTA Research said in its latest monitoring report, noting that “ICU utilization increased by an average of 22 occupied ICUs per day” over the past seven days.

Meanwhile, OCTA said the reproduction rate in the capital region has decreased to 1.74 as of Aug. 10 from 1.80 two days ago.

“While this is a welcome development, it is too early to determine if this is the start of a new trend,” it said. “A change in the direction of the reproduction number always carries the most uncertainty, and the trend should be clearer within the next few days.”

The Health department earlier this week said ICUs in some hospitals in Metro Manila were “at high risk category.” More than 200 healthcare facilities, including 25 hospitals in Metro Manila, were classified as “critical risk” in terms of use, it said.

The Philippines did not learn from the previous coronavirus surge, which had severely crippled the country’s healthcare system, said Gene A. Nisperos, a board member of the Community Medicine Development Foundation.

Mr. Nisperos said the government has failed to boost the country’s healthcare personnel despite warnings that the country might face a Delta-fueled coronavirus surge.

“Putting more beds without the needed health personnel is just theater, with no real impact,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “In an ICU setting, there should at least be one nurse per patient.”

“The government continues to fail in attracting more nurses to join because it is shortsighted, refusing to provide better packages and working conditions,” he said.

Mr. Nisperos also said the government should “head off” the disease at the community level with a focus on contact tracing and testing.

Also on Wednesday, an inter-agency task force adopted a resolution requiring individuals who are fully vaccinated but have direct contact with a probable or confirmed coronavirus case to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza