PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Russell Louis C. Ku

PHILIPPINE health authorities reported 561 coronavirus infections from the Delta variant on Sunday, bringing the total to 1,789.

Of the new cases, 473 were local patients, 31 were returning migrant Filipino workers and 12 were still being verified, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a statement.

The agency said 114 cases had addresses in the National Capital Region, 24 in the Ilocos Region, 32 in Cagayan Valley, 64 in Central Luzon, 79 in Calabarzon, 20 in Mimaropa and 16 in the Bicol Region.

Thirteen were from Western Visayas, 23 from Central Visayas, 12 from the Zamboanga Peninsula, 48 from Northern Mindanao, 22 from the Davao Region and six from the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Six cases were still active, five patients died and 505 recovered, DoH said.

The agency also said 73 more people have been infected with the Alpha coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom, bringing the total to 2,395.

Of the new cases, 71 were local patients and two were returning migrant Filipino workers. All of them have recovered.

The country now had 2,669 cases of the Beta variant after 81 more Filipinos got infected with the strain first detected in South Africa. Forty-one more people have been infected with the P.3 variant first detected in the Philippines.

The Health department reported 18,528 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 1.95 million.

The death toll rose to 33,109 after 101 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 17,922 to 1.78 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 143,221 active cases, 95.3% of which were mild, 2% did not show symptoms, 1.1% were severe, 1% were moderate and 0.6% were critical.

The agency said 205 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 204 of which were tagged as recoveries while 38 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Seven laboratories did not submit data on Aug. 27.

Meanwhile, the country’s daily coronavirus tally could hit more than 20,000 by September, the OCTA Research group from the University of the Philippines said.

Cases could peak as early as next week, OCTA Research fellow Fredegusto P. David told ABS-CBN Teleradyo.

The country on Saturday logged more than 19,400 coronavirus infections, the highest daily tally since the pandemic started in March last year.

Mr. David said coronavirus cases in Metro Manila increased by 11% in the past week from 24% a week earlier. Infections could increase further, he added.

OCTA earlier said the Philippines would post 20,000 cases daily amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

The Health department has said coronavirus infections were expected to peak in the coming weeks. The country had a daily average of 15,537 cases from Aug. 19 to 25, higher than 12,897 cases a week earlier.

The presidential palace on Saturday said Metro Manila, Laguna, and Bataan would remain under a modified enhanced community quarantine until Sept. 7.

Mr. David said localized lockdowns endorsed by Health authorities would be effective only if cases were not as widespread in cities.

OCTA earlier said centralized lockdowns were still needed to stop the spike.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has deferred the suspension of payments of hospital claims under investigation for possible fraud, spokesperson Shirley B. Domingo told DZBB radio on Sunday.

The decision came after a dialogue with healthcare providers brokered by Health Undersecretary Leopoldo J. Vega.

Mr. Vega last week urged PhilHealth to prioritize the payment of claims from private hospitals, which have threatened to cut ties with the state insurer.

Private hospitals find it hard to generate revenue since they have focused on coronavirus patients, he said.

Some private hospitals have threatened to cut ties with PhilHealth after it released a circular suspending payment to health care providers whose claims are under probe.

Philippine Hospital Association President Jaime A. Almora separately told the radio station the move was a “happy culmination” of congressional hearings about the PhilHealth plan.

PhilHealth wanted to suspend payments of claims of healthcare providers with allegations of fraudulent and unethical acts or abuse of authority for up to 210 days.

The circular has come under fire by hospital groups, citing a “feeling of mistrust” by the state insurer against healthcare providers.

PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Dante A. Gierran had told congressmen the state insurer would release 60% of unpaid claims out of P21 billion owed to private hospitals by this week.

Ms. Domingo said that PhilHealth would continue talks with healthcare providers on delayed payments and the temporary suspension of claims to find a compromise.