By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported fewer than 7,000 coronavirus infections for the second straight day on Monday after cases peaked in early September.

There were 6,943 coronavirus new cases, bringing the total to 2.73 million, it said in a bulletin. The death toll rose to 40,761 after 86 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 19,687 to 2.62 million.

There were 68,832 active cases, 79.7% of which were mild, 5.5% did not show symptoms, 4.5% were severe, 8.42% were moderate and 1.9% were critical.

The agency said 25 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 16 of which were reclassified as recoveries, while 30 recoveries were relisted as deaths. Two laboratories failed to submit data on Oct. 16.

“Nationally, our cases have been going down since our peak in early September,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing. Daily infections fell by 23% from a week earlier.

The Philippines had a daily average of 7,732 cases from Oct. 13 to 17, compared with 10,067 from a week earlier.

The country and most regions were at moderate risk from the virus, Ms. Vergeire said. But more than 70% of COVID-19 beds or intensive care units in several regions had been used, she added.

Meanwhile, Ms. Vergeire said 84.6% or 633 of 748 coronavirus infections tested on Oct. 16 were of the more contagious Delta variant, bringing the total to 4,431.

Three more Alpha variant infections and six Beta variant cases were detected in DoH’s latest genome sequence runs.

Ms. Vergeire said 88.46% or 15,168 of 17,147 samples sequenced as of Oct. 16 contained Sars-Cov-2 lineages. She added that 70.4% of the 15,168 samples were either Alpha, Beta or Delta variants.

The Delta variant has been detected in 17 regions of the country and all 17 local government units in Metro Manila, she said.

Of the 961 returning migrant Filipinos tested, 67% or 645 had tested positive for a coronavirus variant of concern, Ms. Vergeire said.

An inter-agency task force last week placed Metro Manila under Alert Level 3 from Oct. 16 to Oct. 30, allowing more nonessential businesses such as cinemas to reopen at reduced capacities.

The capital region’s seven-day average of new coronavirus cases have gone down by 27% or 533 cases, Ms. Vergeire said.

“As we safely reopen the economy, mobility will increase,” she said. “Maintaining the detection-to-isolation intervals at four days or further shortening this can counter its negative impact.”

Ms. Vergeire said the government should vaccinate more senior citizens and seriously ill people to ease the burden on hospitals and reduce deaths.

The Philippines, which scored poorly in a global index that measured the recovery of more than 100 countries from the coronavirus pandemic, is boosting its vaccination drive to reach its target of inoculating at least 50% of its adult population by yearend. The government aims to fully vaccinate 70% of the population by February. 

The country on Friday started inoculating children aged 12 to 17 with health complications in eight hospitals in Metro Manila. Ms. Vergeire said 1,509 children have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Oct. 16.

She confirmed reports that four children had experienced side effects after getting vaccinated. One experienced high blood pressure, one had an allergic reaction, and two experienced stress-related reactions. “This is still being studied by our vaccination sites and our vaccine cluster.”

The vaccination of minors went smoothly because clearance from doctors and the consent of parents had been obtained in advance, she added.

Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week took responsibility for the shortage of coronavirus vaccines in the country early this year.

The president last month criticized rich countries for hoarding vaccines while poor countries struggled to  secure shots for their people. He described vaccine hoarding as a shockingly “selfish act” that should be condemned.

Earlier this year, Mr. Duterte accused the European Union of holding up vaccine supplies from other  countries, citing the economic bloc’s export rule that requires drugmakers to obtain permission first  before shipping out coronavirus vaccines.

The tough-talking leader has repeatedly threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.