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Philippines posts 319 more Delta variant cases

SAN JUAN outsiders got a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the city’s Theater Mall on Sept. 14. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

PHILIPPINE health authorities on Monday reported 319 more infections involving a more contagious Delta coronavirus variant, bringing the total to 3,027.

Delta had become the dominant coronavirus variant in the country, overtaking the Alpha and Beta variants that triggered a fresh surge in infections months ago, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the Delta variant’s dominance in the Philippines as early as August.

Ms. Vergeire noted that based on the recent sequencing of 374 virus samples, 319 were Delta, 13 were Alpha, nine were Beta and five were P.3 variants. The remaining 28 samples were the original variant of the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China.

She added that 24% of 12,530 samples sequenced as of Sept. 18 had tested positive for the Delta variant.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 18,937 coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to 2.39 million.

The death toll rose to 36,934 after 146 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 20,171 to 2.17 million, the agency said in a bulletin.

There were 176,850 active cases, 92.7% of which were mild, 2.7% did not show symptoms, 1.4% were severe, 2.61% were moderate and 0.6% were critical.

DoH said 70 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 51 of which were reclassified as recoveries, while 53 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit data on Sept. 18.

Ms. Vergeire noted that while coronavirus cases in the Philippines have fallen, the country’s healthcare capacity remained at high risk.

Cases might increase in the coming weeks due to the spread of the Delta variant and active contact tracing, she added.

Ms. Vergeire said the Philippines had a daily average of 19,963 cases from Sept. 13 to 19, 5% lower than a week earlier. Before this, the country had been posting a new peak weekly since the start of August.

The top five regions with the most coronavirus cases were the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Davao and Ilocos.

Metro Manila, which had a daily average of 5,136 cases from Sept. 6 to 12, and nearby provinces showed a steep increase in cases at the end of July, Ms. Vergeire said.

“A slight downward trend was seen in the recent week and the rest of Luzon continue to show an increase, while the Visayas and Mindanao showed a plateau,” she said.

The government on Sept. 16 started enforcing granular lockdowns with five alert levels in Metro Manila. The capital region was placed under Alert Level 4, the second highest level, until Sept. 30.

At a separate press briefing, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said the new lockdown strategy would not be implemented yet nationwide next month.

He said 77% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the country had been used as of Sept. 19, while 67% of isolation beds and 72% of ward beds were occupied.

Meanwhile, 77% of ICU beds in Metro Manila had been used, while 63% of isolation beds and 73% of wards beds were occupied.

The government is struggling to vaccinate its entire adult population amid a fresh spike in infections.

As of Sept. 19, 18.56 million people or 24% of the target adult population have been fully-vaccinated against the coronavirus, Mr. Roque said. The government took delivery on Sunday night of more than two million doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer, Inc., he said.

The shipment was donated by the United States through a global initiative for equal access. Mr. Roque said about 561,600 more Pfizer doses were set to arrive on Monday.

About three million doses of the vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. also arrived on Sunday night, he said. Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza