New cases breach 8K; 4-day total over 30K – DOH: Spike due to UK, South African variants

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    Random check. An officer from the Highway Patrol Group on board a bus near the Batasan Complex in Quezon City checks if passengers are complying with health protocols. PHOTO BY ROLLY SALVADOR.

    MORE than 8,000 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases were reported by the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday, breaching the grim milestone projected by the independent research team OCTA two Sundays ago, as the country logged more than 30,000 infections in just four days.

    In its latest bulletin, the DOH reported 8,019 cases, surpassing the previous record high of 7,999 set only last Saturday. Along with the 7,757 new cases last Sunday and 7,103 last Friday, the four-day count now stands at 30,878 and raised the overall number of infections in the country to 671,792, the second highest in Southeast Asia.

    Last March 14, when just 4,899 new cases were reported, OCTA projected 8,000 cases daily by the end of March. The research firm updated its projections two days later, saying it expected 11,000 cases per day by end-March.

    The DOH attributed the spike to the presence of the United Kingdom and South African variants, the more contagious variants of the deadly virus, in Metro Manila and the indifference of the public to health protocols.

    In a virtual press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the UK and South African variants have been detected in every part of Metro Manila.

    “We cannot deny that we can already see these variants in all cities (and municipality) of Metro Manila. That is a fact,” said Vergeire. “So, we can now really say that the variants are here.”

    She added that there are cities with the UK variant while some have the South African variant. “In other cities, they even have both the UK and South African variants,” she said.

    “But that is not the lone factor. It will also be because of compliance to our health protocols and some other institutional gaps,” said Vergeire.

    Asked if there is now a community transmission for the new variants, Vergeire said: “We still need to confer with the World Health Organization if indeed community transmission of the variants is present already.”

    The Philippines has already recorded 223 UK variant cases and 152 South African variant cases, along with 104 cases of the P.3 variants that was first detected in the country.

    Four more succumbed to the deadly virus, raising the death toll in the country to 12,972, also the second highest in Southeast Asia.

    There were 103 recoveries, raising the number of survivors to 577,850. But active cases jumped to 80,970, of which 95.4 percent are mild cases, 2.2 percent asymptomatic cases, 1 percent severe cases, 0.9 percent critical cases, and 0.52 percent moderate cases.

    The rise in new cases threatened to swamp the intensive care departments of hospitals, with some reporting full capacity.

    The number of overseas Filipinos infected with the deadly virus climbed to15,985 with 15 more new cases, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

    The DFA also reported 9 new recoveries, bringing to 9,700 the number of survivors. The death toll stands at 1,047.

    The Department of Justice said 45 more of its employees have contracted the virus while one has recovered.

    DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the 45 are “active cases.”

    “Majority are in home quarantine – asymptomatic and mild cases – while 8 are in quarantine facility and 2 are confined in the hospital,” Guevarra said.

    At the House, an employee of the public relations bureau who tested positive for the virus last week died yesterday morning of complications brought about by the disease.

    The employee died just a few days after Speaker Lord Allan Velasco placed the House of Representatives under a four-day lockdown in response to the surge of cases in Metro Manila.

    Last year, at least three House employees and two lawmakers – Reps. Francisco Datol Jr. (PL, Senior Citizens) and Maria Bernardita “Ditas” Ramos of Sorsogon – died after contracting the virus.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has moved out of a two-star hotel in San Juan and is now staying at a rented residence where he intends to complete his 10-day quarantine.

    Roque, who said last week that he tested positive for the disease but is asymptomatic, continued to give online briefings and interviews while in “isolation.”

    Roque said he had to move out of the hotel because of water supply problems but cannot go home because his wife has comorbidities and he still has two more days left until he completes his 10-day quarantine period. He said he only has to undergo 10 days of quarantine, instead of the usual 14 days, because he was asymptomatic.

    “This is my 8th day and I’m dying to reach the 10th day because being asymptomatic I’m required to undergo to 10 days of quarantine. I’m going bonkers,” he added during a television interview. – With Ashzel Hachero, Wendell Vigilia and Jocelyn Montemayor