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Philippines logs 2nd lowest virus tally in 17 months

PHILIPPINE health authorities reported 370 coronavirus infections on Monday — the second-lowest daily tally in 17 months — bringing the total to 2.84 million.

The death toll hit 49,761 after 171 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 859 to 2.77 million, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin.

The agency said two laboratories did not operate on Dec. 6, while five laboratories failed to submit data.

DoH logged 356 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the lowest since July 2, 2020, when 294 cases were reported.

The Philippines had yet to detect the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire separately told an online news briefing.

The Omicron variant appeared to be no worse than other coronavirus strains, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday, citing top scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United States, even as they said more research was needed to judge its severity.

The assessments came as markets were riled by the emergence of the heavily mutated variant, which has forced dozens of countries to again tighten borders and raised the possibility of fresh lockdowns that could burden the global economy.

The local Health department said the Philippines had 12,510 active cases, 883 of which did not show symptoms, 4,974 were mild, 3,916 were moderate, 2,261 were severe and 476 were critical.

The agency said 19% or the 171 reported deaths occurred in November, it said.

It said 27 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 25 of which were reclassified as recoveries and one as a death, while 150 recoveries were relisted as deaths.

It added that 95 patients had tested negative and were removed from the tally. Of these, 92 were recoveries.

DoH said 24% of intensive care units in the Philippines were occupied, while the rate for Metro Manila was 24%.

The Philippines’ ranking in a global index that measured the recovery of more than 100 countries from the coronavirus pandemic has improved recently, after the Southeast Asian country managed to contain a spike in infections fueled by the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant.

The country jumped 46 notches to 57th in the latest COVID-19 recovery ranking by Nikkei Asia.

In a report on Monday, the Tokyo-based news magazine said the Philippines’ ranking improved due to a “significant increase in its infection management scores.”

But while the country’s infection numbers had dropped from the peak in September, its short-term death rate was more than 9% — the second-highest in the world, according to the report.

The Health department on Wednesday said the country’s coronavirus death rate as of Dec. 7 was 1.61%, below the global average of 2%.

“After cases and deaths peaked in Sept. 2021, both have continuously declined along with the monthly case fatality rates,” it said in a separate statement.

DoH noted that the Philippines death rate used in the Nikkei report was from Our World in Data, whose calculation was based on the number of reported deaths per day from Nov. 18 to 27.

The agency noted that of 2,096 deaths reported for that period, only 16% occurred in November, while 80% occurred between August and October.

“The high reported deaths in this latter part of Nov. 2021 were due to delayed encoding, validation and reporting of death information.”

“The COVID-19 deaths have to be verified by local epidemiology and surveillance units on the ground,” it added.

“We are aware of the delays in encoding of death information,” the agency said, adding that “we are addressing this issue with the epidemiology and surveillance units to ensure our COVID-19 data are up to date.”

The coronavirus has sickened 267.4 million and killed 5.3 million people globally, according to the Worldometer website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

Almost 241 million patients have recovered, it said.

The United States had the most infections at 50.27 million with 812,205 deaths, followed by India with 34.66 million infections and 473,952 deaths.

They were followed by Brazil with 22.16 million infections and 616.067 deaths; the United Kingdom with 10.56 million cases and 145,826 deaths and Russia with 9.86 million infections and 283,644 deaths.

The Philippines was ranked 19th. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Norman P. Aquino

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