RESEARCHERS from the country’s premier university on Tuesday flagged a fresh surge in coronavirus infections in Manila, the capital and nearby cities amid the threat of a more contagious Delta variant from India.

The government should enforce a “circuit-breaker” lockdown for two weeks to contain the pandemic, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said.

A circuit-breaker is a set of restrictions “designed to reverse the tide of the epidemic and bring the number of cases down,” according to the BBC. “The rules could feel a lot like the original national lockdown, but crucially a circuit-breaker is for a fixed period of time.”

About 1,000 cases are reported daily in the capital region and the Delta coronavirus variant might be contributing to this, OCTA Research fellow Ranjit Rye told a televised news briefing. “Our hospitals will feel it once we reach 2,000,” he said. In Filipino.

The coronavirus reproduction number in the region had risen to 1.33 from 0.6 last month, OCTA, he said. A reproduction number higher than 1 means the virus is spreading faster.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 7,186 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1.56 million.

The death toll rose to 27,318 after 72 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 5,672 to 1.47 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 56,477 active cases, 93.8% of which were mild, 1.1% were asymptomatic, 2.3% were severe, 1.58% were moderate and 1.3% were critical.

The agency said 162 duplicates had been removed from the tally, seven of which were tagged as recoveries and one as a death. Forty-nine recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Thirteen laboratories failed to submit data on July 25.

About 58% of intensive care unit beds in the country had been used as of July 26. About 47% of isolation beds and 44% of ward beds were occupied.

Meanwhile, the Philippines took delivery of 375,570 doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer, Inc. The government paid for the vaccines, he National Task Force Against COVID-19 tweeted.

About 17.51 million vaccine doses have been given out as of July 26, 11.2 million of which were first doses.

The Delta variant, which is known to be twice more contagious than other COVID-19 mutations, has been confirmed to have infected at least 119 Filipinos.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday said the country could no longer afford more lockdowns given the strain on the economy, as he called on the public to get vaccinated.

He said he could not completely rule out stricter quarantines as the Delta variant continues to spread.

Also on Tuesday, Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo urged the government to focus on the pandemic and its impact on the economy.

The country’s pandemic response “should be mirrored in the budget, in the agenda of every meeting within government, in every memo cascaded down the bureaucracy,” she said in speech day after Mr. Duterte’s last address to Congress.

“If we need to put up billboards and tarps, let it be about staying safe from illness,” Ms. Robredo said. “If we need the services of a battalion of graphic artists, let it be for a vaccination drive. When passing new laws, let it be for funds and a stronger system to combat the pandemic.”

Mr. Duterte’s nearly three-hour State of the Nation Address was a missed opportunity to explain to the people how his government plans to address the threat of the Delta variant “to assuage fear and inspire trust,” Gene A. Nisperos, a board member of the Community Medicine Development Foundation, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

The President spent the first two hours of his speech talking about how he defeated the communist insurgency, while expressing disappointment about his failure to solve the country’s illegal drug problem.

He failed to present a long-term pandemic recovery plan, Mr. Nisperos said. “There were no details as to how the government plans to address current and long-term issues,” he said. “Instead, he is resorting to lockdowns again.”

Mr. Duterte would place the country under a strict lockdown again if the Delta variant becomes unmanageable. Vaccination is still the best solution to combat the pandemic, he added.

“The economy has been choked for too long and if the administration sees the only exit being its vaccination program, the economy will continue to be choked for even longer,” Ibon Foundation Executive Director Sonny A. Africa said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“The lockdowns since last year worsened joblessness, collapsed household incomes and drove almost 560,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises into severe difficulties,” Mr. Africa said. “This considerable scarring results in widespread suffering and hinders rapid recovery.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza