Expert: 127% surge in COVID cases ‘not a concern’



MANILA, Philippines — New COVID-19 cases nationwide soared by 127 percent on Friday, the highest rise in coronavirus infections in the country in recent weeks, according to the Department of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 Tracker data.

But infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante on Saturday said that surge was not a cause for concern, whether the latest figures were updated or were the result of a backlog in the reporting of cases.

The daily case count was pegged at 311, a sharp increase from the 137 new infections recorded on Thursday. This pushed active infections to 8,621, from 8,414 on Thursday, and the total national caseload to 4,079,796, from 4,079,501 that previous day.

The last time the country saw COVID-19 infections above 300 was on Jan. 22, when there were 399 new cases recorded that day. Confirmed infections had been hovering between 100 and 200 on the average since then.

‘Not significant’

Solante said the sudden surge was “most likely a backlog” and was no cause for alarm.

“Just like before, a single-day increase is not significant, especially if the percent increase is not that high. [More than] 300 for a population of 100 million is still very small,” he told the Inquirer on Saturday.

“Even if this is real time, it’s not a concern,” added Solante, who heads San Lazaro Hospital’s adult infectious diseases unit. Still, he noted that constant monitoring of cases remained important, given the continued circulation of the highly immune-evasive Omicron variants.

“I highly predict that with Omicron XBB.1.5 already detected in the Philippines, there will be a slight uptick in cases,” Solante said.

“But I doubt if it will be reflected in the COVID tracker since only those positive on RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction tests) are being reported. Majority of those with symptoms prefer to use COVID antigen tests,” he pointed out.

The official tally only covers positive individuals tested via RT-PCR by laboratories of the DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Those who use antigen tests, which are cheaper and more accessible, are not required to report their results.

‘Be vigilant’

DOH officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire also said earlier that the recent uptrend in coronavirus cases should not be a concern, as hospitalizations and critical cases remained manageable.

“We should not be scared about this, and we should not be worried. What we ought to do is to be constantly aware and be vigilant,” Vergeire said in a press briefing last week.

Total bed occupancy for COVID-19 cases remained low at 16.2 percent, as of Thursday. The number of patients who occupied intensive care unit (ICU) beds was also low at 13.3 percent.

Metro Manila topped the number of new cases in the last two weeks with 637, followed by the regions of Davao (295), Calabarzon (236), Northern Mindanao (224), and Soccsksargen (176).

The country’s current death toll from COVID-19 has reached 66,316, and recoveries numbered 4,004,859, as of Friday.


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