Omicron has overtaken Delta as the dominant coronavirus variant in the Philippines, and its record-breaking spread has placed the entire country at "critical risk", Health Secretary Francisco Duque said late Monday.
Hyper-contagious Omicron accounts for six out of every 10 positive COVID tests that were analyzed by the DOH last Jan. 3, underscoring a 690% jump in the seven-day average of daily COVID cases, Duque told President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Monday, the Philippines logged 33,169 COVID-19 cases, setting an all-time high for the third straight day, and from under 1,000 daily in the last weeks of 2021.
"Talagang ang tulin, ang bilis ng kalat ng kaso," Duque said.
In the two week period from Dec. 28 to Jan. 10, cases jumped 3,663% compared to the Dec. 14 to 27 period, he said.
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Out of 28 COVID-positive samples analyzed at the start of the year, 29 samples were infected with Omicron. Nineteen Omicron cases are in Metro Manila, 10 of whom are returning overseas Filipinos, Duque said.
On Jan. 9, hospital bed utilization doubled to 40% from 20% from the week before while the use of intensive case units jumped to 38% from 23%.
Duque reminded the public to get vaccinated especially the vulnerable population to protect against COVID-19.
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While cases are going up, authorities have held off on elevating the quarantine status of Metro Manila, the epicenter of the Omicron outbreak to Alert Level 4 from Level 3.
Upgrading the alert by one notch would mean smaller operating capacities for business, stay-at-home orders except for essentials, curfews and mandatory wearing of face shields in public spaces.
Earlier this week authorities ordered an increase in hospital beds and medical resources in and around Metro Manila, acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a statement.
Health authorities were also directed to increase inoculation rates outside the region, with many provinces lagging.
Government offices including the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Presidential Communications Operations Office have announced temporary closures as a precaution after several of their staff have been infected.
At the end of last year, 45% of the country's 110 million people had been fully vaccinated. Under existing rules, unvaccinated people in the capital region can only step out of their homes for essential trips. -- With Reuters