THE PHILIPPINES’ vaccination rate has reached 63% of the target population, with 48.6 million individuals having received full dose, the presidential spokesman said on Wednesday.

The government was initially targeting to fully vaccinate at least 70% of its 109.6-million population, but the goal has been increased with the rollout of jabs for the 12-17 age group. Authorities have also approved the Pfizer vaccine for five to 11-year olds but supply for this cluster is not yet available.   

Cabinet Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles also said in an online news briefing that the country’s average coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing has doubled to 80,000 per day in 2021 from 40,000 in 2020.

Mr. Nograles also noted that 64% of the 81 provinces in the Philippines have at least one COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction laboratory.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 889 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest in over a month, bringing the total to 2.84 million.

“Cases are expected to increase due to the holiday related mobility and reduced compliance to MPHS (minimum public health standards),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told reporters on Wednesday.

“We are continuously monitoring the situation, though we cannot still be certain that the increase in cases is due to the Omicron variant,” she said.

“We are calling on the public and the LGUs (local government units) to ensure safety protocols are implemented and every Filipino is vaccinated,” she added.

The death toll hit 51,241 after 28 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 214 to 2.78 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 10,418 active cases, 536 of which did not show symptoms, 4,384 were mild, 3,346 were moderate, 1,778 were severe and 374 were critical.

The agency said 98% of the reported cases occurred from Dec. 16 to 29. The top regions with cases in the past two weeks were Metro Manila with 564, Calabarzon with 86, and Central Luzon with 53.

It added that 25% of the reported deaths occurred in December, 7% in November, 14% in October, 32% in September, 4% in August, 7% in July, and 4% in June. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan