THE PHILIPPINES on Thursday reported 989 coronavirus infections — the second straight day the tally fell below 1,000 — bringing the total to 3.66 million.

The death toll hit 56,538 after 34 more patients died, while recoveries rose by 1,349 to 3.56 million, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin. It said 4.5% of 27,143 samples from Feb. 28 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 50,458 active cases, 463 did not show symptoms, 45,510 were mild, 2,773 were moderate, 1,415 were severe and 297 were critical.

The agency said 89% of new cases occurred on Feb. 18 to March 3. The top regions with cases in the past two weeks were Metro Manila with 192, Calabarzon with 111 and Central Visayas with 101 infections. It added that 32% of new deaths occurred in February and 9% in January.   

Four duplicates were removed from the tally, three of which were reclassified as recoveries, while 26 recoveries were relisted as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit data on March 1.

DoH said 25% of intensive care unit beds in the country and in Metro Manila were occupied.

The agency was “prepared for the worst-case scenario” after the lockdown in the capital region and 38 other areas was eased to the lowest alert level, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque said on Wednesday.

“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 said this week.

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 its 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.

The agency 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. — KATA

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