THE PHILIPPINES posted 4,456 coronavirus infections last week, with a daily average of 637, according to Health authorities.

The daily average from April 24 to 30 rose by 42% from a week earlier, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin on Tuesday.

There were 22 severe and critical cases, accounting for 0.49% of the total. There were no reported deaths during the period.

DoH said 303 of 2,021 intensive care unit (ICU) beds had been used as of April 30, while 3,157 out of 17,480 non-ICU beds were occupied.  There were 351 severe and critical admissions, it added.

OCTA Research fellow Fredegusto P. David tweeted that COVID-19 positivity rates in many areas as of April 29 had increased to double digits.

The positivity rate in Metro Manila rose to 17.2% on April 29 from 10.2% on April 22, he said.

Camarines Sur province had the highest infection rate at 39.7% from 32.1%, followed by Rizal with 28.5% from 21.7%, Cavite with 28.1% from 11.1% and Laguna with 21.2% from 13.2%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a 5% threshold for the positivity rate.

Mr. David earlier cited the detection of Omicron subvariant XB.1.16 as a possible reason for the significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Also called Arcturus, the subvariant comes from XBB, a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages. The Health department has said XB.1.16, which is more contagious, could evade immunity.

The WHO has labeled XBB.1.16 a variant of interest.

DoH on April 25 reported the Philippines’ first XBB.1.16 patient, a Filipino from Iloilo province in central Philippines. The patient was asymptomatic and had since recovered, the agency said on April 26. 

Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire at a briefing streamed live on Facebook said the increase in COVID-19 cases could not be compared to the numbers recorded at the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

“We need to raise the level of our risk tolerance to COVID-19. The increase in cases did not translate to more hospital admissions, and it did not translate to more severe and critical cases and even deaths,” she said.

The Philippines’ health use rate remained at low risk “because of the wall of immunity due to vaccination,” she added.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Sunday said the government would boost vaccination efforts amid rising COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

Mr. Marcos said the government might reimpose mandatory face mask rules amid rising infections.

But Ms. Vergeire said there was no need to revive the face mask mandate.

“We have already recommended to the Office of the President, based on the agreements coming from the Inter-Agency Task Force discussions, that there is no need to return the mandate,” she said. “We need to shift the mindset of our countrymen.”

She said COVID-19 cases in the Philippines would increase and decrease “because the virus is here, it will not disappear.” “The virus will mutate and produce variants every now and then.”

Filipinos should learn how to protect themselves and their family by choosing to wear a mask when going to high-risk places, she said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza