THE health department reported on Friday 3,093 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily case rate in almost five months, and more cases of the new variants.

The March 5 tally was the highest since the 3,139 reported in October 16, 2020.

This brings the country’s total coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases to 587,704, including 40,074 active cases.

Over 89% of the active cases are mild while 5.6% are asymptomatic. For critical, severe, and moderate cases, the Department of Health (DoH) said they are at 2.0%, 1.9%, and 0.77%, respectively.

Additional recoveries were at 178, putting the total at 535,207. Total deaths were at 12,423, including the additional 19 deaths on Friday.

The DoH also reported on Friday that its targeted sequencing detected 52 additional cases positive for the South Africa Variant; 31 new cases for the UK Variant; and 42 new cases with mutations of potential clinical significance.

These were among the 350 samples tested by the University of the Philippines Philippine Genome Center.

Health officials again cautioned the public that minimum health protocols must be strictly followed despite the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the country this week.

“Yes, vaccines are here but it will take some time before it is our turn (to get vaccinated)… The next best thing to do is to continue to wear our face masks and shields. They are just as effective as vaccines,” John Q. Wong, adviser to the national task force handling the coronavirus response and a member of the Technical Working Group on COVID-19 Variants, said in a virtual briefing on Friday.

He noted that in a recent monitoring exercise, it was observed that 91% of people wore face masks properly but only 31% did so with face shields.

DoH Health Promotion and Policy Head Rodley M. Carza said COVID-19 cases would have increased higher than its rate now if people still doubt the efficacy of using face shields along with their face masks.

“I think that highlights why face shields are important because we are imposing face shields now and we are still seeing increasing cases. What more if we remove face shields,” he said in the same forum.

Emerging cases of the new variants, which are more transmissible, has also contributed to the recent rise of daily COVID-19 cases, according to Mr. Wong, citing that a similar trend has been seen in other countries. — Gillian M. Cortez