THE PHILIPPINES recorded 4,131 new coronavirus infections from March 7 to 13, 35% lower than a week earlier, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Monday.

There were three new severe and critical cases during the week, while deaths increased by 591, it said in a bulletin.

The agency said 704 of 3,598 intensive care unit (ICU) beds had been used as of March 13, while 4,648 of 27,021 non-ICU beds were occupied. There were 1,006 severe and critical admissions as of March 13.

The Philippines is aiming to vaccinate more people as it reopens the economy.

DoH said 64.54 million people had been fully vaccinated as of March 13, while 11.16 million people have received booster shots. 

The government has placed Metro Manila and 38 other areas under Alert Level 1 until March 31. It is set to announce new virus alerts on March 15.

Philippine authorities are looking at lifting a coronavirus lockdown in Manila, the capital and nearby cities as infections continue to fall, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said last week. An inter-agency task force would also do away with restrictions that are no longer needed, he said.

Metro Manila and most areas were placed under Alert Level 1 — the most relaxed lockdown in a five-tier system — after experiencing a surge in infections spurred by the highly mutated Omicron variant at the start of the year.

The task force might place other parts of the country under Alert Level 1 once there is minimal risk from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and less than 50% of the healthcare system is used, he added.

About 70% of people in an area under the first alert level must also have been fully vaccinated, while the vaccination requirement for seniors is 80%. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza