THE PHILIPPINES reported 1,712 coronavirus infections on Sunday — the second straight day the tally fell below 2,000 — bringing the total to 3.65 million.

The death toll hit 55,684 after 77 more patients died, while recoveries rose by 3,686 to 3.54 million, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin.

The agency said 8.8% of 28,500 samples from Feb. 18 tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), still above the 5% threshold set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Of 60,532 active cases, 856 did not show symptoms, 55,102 were mild, 2,848 were moderate, 1,421 were severe and 305 were critical.

DoH said 94% of new cases occurred on Feb. 7 to 20. The top regions with cases in the past two weeks were Metro Manila with 316, Calabarzon with 221 and Western Visayas with 180 infections. It added that 66% of new deaths occurred in February and 26% in January.

It said 257 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 246 of which were recoveries, while 61 recoveries were relisted as deaths. Three laboratories failed to submit data on Feb. 18.

Infections might slightly increase as the Philippines accepts more foreign tourists, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said.

“There could be upticks again,” OCTA fellow Fredegusto P. David said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “But we are not really expecting any significant increase at this time.”

He said the country’s healthcare system is more prepared now to handle a fresh spike in cases. “We have low hospitalization rates,” he said, noting that only a quarter of Metro Manila’s hospital system had been used.

The government has kept the capital region’s Alert Level 2 status until the end of February, as it reopens the economy.

The virus reproduction rate in Metro Manila was very low, while the positivity rate was moderate, Mr. David said, citing data from the Health department.

The capital region had an average daily attack rate of 3.19, which is also considered moderate.

The Philippines has relaxed the lockdown in many areas as it welcomes fully vaccinated foreign travelers to spur economic recovery.

Various countries have started easing restrictions amid observations that the heavily mutated Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, might have peaked.

A drop in COVID-19 testing rates worldwide was likely contributing to a decline in reported cases in the world, even as deaths were rising, WHO technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said on Wednesday.

“The bigger concern right now, I think, is the still increasing number of deaths,” she told an online  discussion streamed live on YouTube.

Ms. Van Kerkhove noted that in the past week alone, almost 75,000 people died, which was probably underestimated.

The coronavirus has sickened about 424 million and killed 5.9 million people globally, according to the Worldometer website, citing various sources including data from the WHO.

About 348.9 million patients have recovered, it added.

The United States had the most infections at 80.07 million with 959,130 deaths, followed by India with 42.82 million infections and 511,935 deaths.

They were followed by Brazil with 28.17 million infections and 643,938 deaths, France with 22,23 million infections and 136,594 deaths; and the United Kingdom with 18.58 million cases and 160,507 deaths.



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