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Philippines posts 849 new cases as testing dips

THE GOVERNMENT is no longer requiring the use of face shields. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINES reported 849 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the first time in 10 months that the daily tally fell below 1,000, though health authorities said it was largely due to a dip in testing output.

This brought the total to 2.82 million, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin. The death toll rose to 45,808 after 99 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 2,393 to 2.75 million.

There were 25,464 active cases, 59.1% of which were mild, 5.9% did not show symptoms, 11.5% were severe, 18.61% were moderate and 4.9% were critical.

The agency said 19 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 18 of which were tagged as recoveries, while 83 recoveries were relisted as deaths. Six laboratories failed to submit data on Nov. 14.

DoH said 34% of intensive care units in the Philippines were occupied, while the rate for Metro Manila was 33%.

Meanwhile, health workers who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus could avail themselves of booster shots starting Nov. 17, the agency said in a separate statement.

It said vaccines made by Moderna, Inc., Pfizer, Inc. and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. should be used “regardless of the brand used for the primary series.”

Sinovac’s Coronavac should be offered as a booster for those who had it as their primary vaccine, DoH said. The agency was set to release the guidelines on booster shots on Nov. 16.

The use of a top-up shot has yet to be approved for the general population. The Philippines has been prioritizing health workers in its coronavirus vaccination program.

Health authorities earlier said seniors may also receive booster shots before the end of the year. The government aims to vaccinate at least 50% of its adult population by yearend.

Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles told a televised news briefing on Tuesday 70.68 million doses of coronavirus vaccines had been given out as of Nov. 15.

He said 31.87 million people or 41.31% of adult Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In Metro Manila, 92.13% or 9 million people of the 9.8-million target population have been fully inoculated, he added.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday night approved the recommendation of an inter-agency task force to lift the mandatory use of face shields in areas under Alert 1, 2 and 3.

In a separate statement, Mr. Nograles said the use of face shields is still required in hospitals and quarantine facilities.

He also said it is only in areas under Alert Level 4 where “discretion is given to establishments and local government units on mandating the use of face shields.”

The Philippines on Tuesday received 1.3 million more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna. The government bought the vaccines.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said these would be used to vaccinate minors and for booster shots.

The government has taken delivery of more than 12.6 million Moderna vaccines. It has received 124 million vaccine shots this year, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19.

The Philippines has received coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Johnson & Johnson and Gamaleya Research Institute.

Mr. Galvez also said the country might begin injecting booster shots to senior citizens and seriously ill people next week.

The OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines earlier traced decreasing infections to the government’s faster vaccine rollout.

The lockdown in many parts of the country including Metro Manila has been relaxed, allowing more businesses to boost their operating capacity. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Norman P. Aquino