THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported 500 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 2.83 million.

The death toll hit 48,712 after 167 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 951 to 2.77 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 15,327 active cases, 7,183 of which were mild, 756 did not show symptoms, 2,489 were severe, 3,832 were moderate and 1,067 were critical.

The agency said nine duplicates had been removed from the tally, eight of which were reclassified as recoveries, while 187 cases were found to have tested negative and have been removed from the tally. Of these, 186 were relisted as recoveries.

DoH said 147 cases tagged as recoveries had been reclassified as deaths.

Two laboratories did not operate on Nov. 29, while three laboratories failed to submit data.

The agency said 27% of intensive care units in the Philippines were occupied, while the rate for Metro Manila was 28%.

The positivity rate was at 2.1%, based on test results from 30,841 people on Nov. 29.

The Philippines on Tuesday logged the lowest daily coronavirus tally since July 2020.

Also on Wednesday, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP) said it was preparing for a potential spike in infections amid the threat of the Omicron variant from Africa.

PHAP President Jose Rene De Grano, said there were ample supplies of oxygen and vacant beds amid decreasing infections in recent weeks. “Private hospitals are ready in case another COVID surge happens,” he told ABS-CBN Teleradyo in Filipino.

South Africa reported the Omicron variant to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Nov. 24.

Much is still unknown about the latest coronavirus variant, but the WHO said its high number of mutations might make it more contagious or resistant to vaccines.

A number of countries, including the Philippines, have tightened their borders to prevent its spread.

As of Nov. 29, about 8,153 out of 28,482 hospital beds in the Philippines were occupied, according to data from the Health department.

Meanwhile, health authorities have quarantined a Filipino worker who came home last week from South Africa, where the Omicron coronavirus variant was first detected, ABS-CBN News reported, citing Bureau of Quarantine Deputy Director Roberto Salvador, Jr. 

The male worker is in quarantine in Bacolod City in central Philippines and was not showing any symptoms, he said.

An inter-agency task force had ordered the bureau to work with the local government in tracing people who have had close contact with the overseas Filipino workers, Mr. Salvador said.

Also on Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved on final reading a bill that seeks to mandate local governments to allot a portion of their share in national taxes for health services.

Voting 224-0 with no abstention, congressmen approved House Bill 10392, which will amend the Local Government Code of 1991.

The bill will require local governments to set aside 20% of their annual budget and 15% of their national tax allotment for development projects and health services.

Their health programs should be approved by their health boards in accordance with Universal Healthcare Law. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Russell Louis C. Ku