MANILA, Philippines — The new year is up to a bleak start in the Philippines as new COVID-19 cases hit its highest since October 30 amid a resurgence of the coronavirus in the country following a lull that saw new infections reach 19-month lows.
The Department of Health reported on New Year’s Day that 3,617 more people tested positive for COVID-19, while 43 more died and 468 more recovered from the disease.
The positivity rate, or the rate of people testing positive for the virus, is now at 14.8%, well above the 5% threshold set by the World Health Organization.
Malacañang said in an abrupt briefing on New Year’s Eve that Filipinos can expect an increase in cases as health authorities suspect that there is already local transmission of the highly infectious Omicron variant that is driving spikes around the world.
In response to this, the government’s pandemic task force decided to tighten coronavirus curbs in Metro Manila, placing the region under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15 which will see many businesses operate at a lower capacity.
The Philippine General Hospital is already feeling the crunch of this spike in infections, with its spokesperson, Dr. Jonas del Rosario, telling TeleRadyo on Saturday that admissions at the hospital have nearly tripled in the six days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
As a result, the PGH’s COVID-19 beds are now 85% full, as the hospital cut its COVID-19 bed capacity to just 100 from 300 after coronavirus infections declined in the country to 19-month lows in December.
Jomar Rabajante of the University of the Philippines COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team, projected that the peak of this surge in cases might surpass the Delta wave which saw a peak of over 26,000 cases in September.
Rabajante said that the peak may be between 20,000 to 40,000 cases, which may happen sometime between mid-January to the third week of February.
Despite this, he said that hospitalization and deaths will not be as high as the Alpha or Delta waves.
(This article, written by Xave Gregorio, was first published in The Philippine Star on January 1, 2022.)