Philippines: Health officials confirm slight surge in Covid-19 cases as total now almost 523,000 as death toll goes above 12,000

MANILA, Feb 23 (Xinhua): The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines reported on Tuesday 1,414 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the South-East Asian country to 564,865.

The death toll climbed to 12,107 after 16 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said, adding that 72 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 522,941.

The number of COVID-19 cases slightly increased in recent days after being flat since January, Butch Ong of the OCTA Research Group, an independent group of experts analyzing the DOH Covid-19 data, told an online briefing on Tuesday.

Ong said the country's reproduction or transmissibility rate went up from 1.0 to 1.22 in the last two weeks.

Ong attributed the spike to mobility "since many people are going out to work" and the presence in the country of the more contagious mutated coronavirus variant first found in Britain.

The Philippines has detected 62 new variant cases so far.

Ong welcomed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to maintain the lockdown restrictions, rejecting the inter-agency coronavirus task force's proposal to move the quarantine to the lowest level to revive the pandemic-hit economy.

Duterte also rejected a plan to resume face-to-face school classes in some pilot areas until vaccinations, which have been set back by delays in the arrival of initial batches of Covid-19 vaccine, have been launched.

Rontgene Solante, the head of the infectious diseases department of a government hospital in Metro Manila, also welcomed Duterte's decision to prioritize the public's safety over the economy.

"As frontline healthcare workers, that's quite a relief for us because we still do have a lot of time to prepare," Solante told a television interview on Tuesday.

Health reform advocate Tony Leachon also lauded Duterte's decision, saying the Covid-19 "numbers are not really good at the moment."

Citing DOH data, Leachon said the Philippines' daily coronavirus case average has been hovering at around 2,000 recently, adding that the fatality and positivity rates have also been higher. - Xinhua
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