Philippine COVID-19 infections top 1.7 million


By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

CORONAVIRUS infections in the Philippines exceeded 1.7 million after the government reported 12,439 more cases on Thursday, the highest daily tally in more than four months.

The tally breached 12,000 for the second straight day, with 87,663 active cases, according to a Department of Health (DoH) bulletin.

The death toll rose to 29,539 after 165 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 6,090 to 1.59 million, it added.

Of the 87,663 active cases, 95.3% were mild, 1.2% did not show symptoms, 1.5% were severe, 1% were moderate and 0.9% were critical.

The agency said 116 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 108 of which were recoveries. Three recoveries were reclassified as active cases, while 85 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Two laboratories did not submit data on Aug. 10.

DoH reported 177 more Delta coronavirus variant infections, bringing the total to 627. It said 173 patients have recovered, one died and three cases were still being verified.

The agency also said 102 more people have been infected with the Alpha coronavirus variant from Britain, bringing the total to 2,195.

There were now 2,421 cases of the Beta variant from South Africa after 59 more Filipinos got infected.

Meanwhile, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said the virus reproduction number stood at 1.41.

Metro Manila’s reproduction number was 1.76, while the national positivity rate was 21%, it said in a report.

OCTA said Quezon City had 467 infections from Aug. 5 to 11, the highest among local governments.

Manila had 304 cases during the period, followed by Cebu City with 275, Makati with 195 and Davao City with 175.

Cebu City, Imus and Tuguegarao were at critical levels in terms of the average daily attack rate and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy, OCTA Fellow Fredegusto P. David tweeted.

Metro Manila was placed under a two-week lockdown starting Aug. 6 amid a fresh surged in infections. The Health department has said the lockdown could get extended.

“The situation is more likely to get worse before it gets better,” Mr. David said.

Also on Thursday, DoH condemned members of the health community who are spreading anti-vaccine sentiments.

This is “irresponsible, as the country continues to face the threat of the more infectious Delta variant,” DoH said in a statement.

Romeo Quijano, a retired professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine, told DZRH radio coronavirus vaccines are unsafe and more dangerous than the virus itself.

“It is likewise irresponsible for media outlets to allow such professionals to use their platforms to spread baseless information that stands to harm Filipinos, especially those who are in the process of deciding to get vaccinated,” DoH said.

A June 23-26 poll by Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed 45% of Filipinos were willing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, 13% higher than the May 2021 result.

The state is “partly to blame” for the vaccine hesitancy, said Noreen H. Sapalo, a college lecturer on culture and politics and a graduate student of anthropology at UP.

“They have no clear risk communication plan or program,” she said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“The low confidence and misunderstanding regarding vaccines are the cumulative result of decades of poor health promotion undertaken by the DoH,” said Gene A. Nisperos, a board member of the Community Medicine Development Foundation.

“For years, the department has neglected to do proper and large-scale health education, especially on the importance of preventive measures like vaccination,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“Even when the vaccination completion rates were already going down 10 years ago, the DoH failed to undertake aggressive health education and promotion,” he added.

Mr. Nisperos said the country’s experience with its dengue immunization program had worsened vaccine hesitancy.

“It was the fuse that was lit that led to the explosion so to speak, but the bomb was already there long before,” he said.

French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur faced a lawsuit after several Filipino children died supposedly due to the side effects of its dengue vaccine sold under the brand name Dengvaxia.

The World Health Organization in 2017 said the dengue vaccine should not be given to people who have not been infected with the dengue virus.

“Now, all of these is coming back to bite us,” Mr. Nisperos said. “Yet the Duterte government and the DoH are not doing enough.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s threats of arresting vaccine decliners did not help, the medical doctor said.

Dismissing those who refuse to get inoculated would not address the problem, Mr. Nisperos said.

When asked at a televised news briefing last week whether the government has a program for vaccine decliners, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said in Filipino: “COVID-19 should take care of them.”

Ms. Sapalo said corruption allegations against the Health department are partly to blame for public distrust in the government’s pandemic response.

“There are so many factors to be considered when it comes to the anti-vax sentiment of the public,” she said. “We can also look at the general distrust of the public in the health system, which failed them at one point in their lives.”

In a report released on Wednesday, the Commission on Audit said it found deficiencies worth P67.3 billion in DoH’s funds.

The President would comment on state auditors’ findings once DoH responds to the accusations, his spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the office of Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo and Quezon City have tied up for a drive-thru coronavirus vaccination for transport and delivery workers.

The “vaccine express” was rolled out on Thursday, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) said in a statement. It will be open until Friday at the Robinsons Novaliches open parking.

About 26.13 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been given out as of Aug. 11, 14.1 million of which were first doses.

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