THIS SCANNING electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. — NIAID-RML

PATIENTS admitted in Philippine private hospitals for the coronavirus have increased, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. said on Wednesday.

“For the past two or three days, when the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing, admissions in private hospitals have also increased,” group President Jose Rene de Grano told a televised news briefing.

Most of the admissions were “coincidental COVID,” a label used for patients who were admitted for different health issues but tested positive for the virus after screening,  he said.

“Most of these patients were admitted to hospitals due to other diseases.” He did not say how many admissions there were exactly.

The increase in hospital use also depends on the number of allocated beds, Mr. De Grano said. “If you have 20 beds and 10 are admitted, that’s 50% already.”

He said admissions in private hospitals have been rising in the Calabarzon, Western Visayas and Davao regions.

Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire on Tuesday said the positivity rate in Aklan province increased to 59.7% in the past week.

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

Still, the rising hospital admissions are not a cause for concern, Ms. Vergeire said, noting that the use rate for beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients in Aklan was only 17%, while the use rate for intensive care unit beds was 5%. Both are considered low risk.

Mr. De Grano said it is still safe for people to go to private hospitals for their healthcare needs, noting that there are separate facilities for COVID-19 patients. Health protocols continue to be observed in hospitals, he added.

The Philippines posted 1,088 COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, with a 23.4% positivity rate, according to the OCTA Research Group.

Of the new cases, 488 came from Metro Manila, OCTA fellow Fredegusto P. David tweeted on Tuesday night.

There were 15,299 active coronavirus cases nationwide, he said. There were 1,754 new recoveries, bringing the total to 4,036,331. There were no reported deaths.

At a Tuesday briefing, Ms. Vergeire confirmed the local transmission of Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, citing the absence of links among three recent cases detected in central Philippines.

“Recent genome sequencing has revealed that there are additional three XBB.1.16 or Arcturus cases in Western Visayas,” she said.

“Based on what we are seeing, there is no linkage to any of these cases that we had been identifying,” Ms. Vergeire said. “There is a local transmission of Arcturus just like any of the different variants or Omicron variant in the country.”

OCTA earlier this month said the surge in COVID-19 infections in the country was possibly being driven by XBB 1.16.

“Although genome sequencing has not shown a high number of XBB 1.16 cases, we only sequenced 2% of reported cases,” Mr. David told BusinessWorld on Tuesday. “The most predominant strains in the country are versions of XBB — 1.9.1, 1.9.2 and 1.16, 1.5.”

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency.

The pandemic has been on a downward trend for more than a year, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, noting that the trend  had allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19.

On Jan. 30 2020, the WHO declared the first recorded COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The health emergency was classified as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

The coronavirus has sickened about 689 million and killed almost 7 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometer website, citing various sources including the WHO. About 661 million people have recovered. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza