THE PHILIPPINES posted 866 infections on Wednesday — the lowest daily tally this year — bringing the total to 3.66 million.
The death toll hit 56,504 after 53 more patients died, while recoveries rose by 1,622 to 3.56 million, it said in a bulletin.
It said 4.7% of 23,738 samples from Feb. 27 tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is within the World Health Organization’s threshold.
Coronavirus tests in February were fewer than in January, when the heavily mutated Omicron variant spurred a spike in infections.
Of 50,827 active cases, 474 did not show symptoms, 45,862 were mild, 2,776 were moderate, 1,417 were severe and 298 were critical.
DoH said 87% of new cases occurred on Feb. 17 to March 2. The top regions with cases in the past two weeks were Metro Manila with 176, Western Visayas with 119 and Central Luzon with 82 infections. It added that 43% of new deaths occurred in February and 4% in January.
Five duplicates were removed from the tally, three of which were reclassified as recoveries, while 46 recoveries were relisted as deaths. Eight laboratories failed to submit data on Feb. 28.
DoH said 25% of intensive care unit beds in the country were occupied, while the rate for Metro Manila was 24%.
The agency was “prepared for the worst case scenario” after the lockdown in the capital region and 38 other areas were eased to the lowest alert level, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III told the ABS-CBN News Channel.
“Before we decided to deescalate, we made an analysis of the capacity of the healthcare system of the country, regionally and locally,” he said.
The Philippines is aiming to vaccinate more people as it reopens the economy.
The government would boost vaccination efforts as it further relaxes restrictions in 39 areas under Alert Level 1, Health Undersecretary Myrna C. Cabotaje told a televised news briefing.
She said the government would improve its house-to-house vaccination efforts and boost information drives to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
Ms. Cabotaje said the government aims to conduct its fourth national vaccination drive on March 10 to 12. The government missed its goal of injecting five million doses during its last national vaccination drive.
She said some Filipinos did not see the need to get a booster shot, while others doubt it usefulness. Only about 10 million people have received a top-up shot.
Government data showed that 93% of healthcare workers, 62.82% of seniors and 92% of seriously ill people have been fully vaccinated.
DoH on Tuesday said it would stop reporting daily coronavirus infections starting March 7.
The agency would issue weekly bulletins instead, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told a televised news briefing.
She said the agency would keep the COVID-19 tracker on its website, but it would eventually be updated weekly. “As to the case numbers, if it’s mild, we treat it like it’s part of our lives,” Ms. Vergeire said. “We live with the virus, we focus on the critical.”
The Philippines, which was among the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, endured one of the longest lockdowns in the world.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the main island of Luzon in mid-March of 2020 to contain the virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China. — K.A.T. Atienza