Philippines logs 3,439 new Covid-19 cases; among the highest number seen in country over the last few months

MANILA, March 6 (Xinhua):The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Saturday 3,439 new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the South-East Asian country to 591,138.

The death toll rose to 12,465 after 42 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said. It added that 160 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 535,350.

The Philippines, which has about 110 million population, has tested over eight million people since recording the first case in January last year.

The Philippines is grappling with a new surge of Covid-19 cases with the detection of fast-spreading coronavirus variants in Metro Manila and other regions.

The Philippines has detected an additional 52 cases of the variant found in South Africa, 58 in total; 31 new cases of the variant found in Britain, 118 in total, and 42 "mutations of potential clinical significance," the DOH said on Friday (March 5).

It said the additional variant cases were detected in Metro Manila and the Central Visayas region, and in returned overseas Filipinos.

Epidemiologist John Wong said the detection of the new and more infectious coronavirus variants is a cause of concern amid the spike of new cases.

"We should all be concerned about this," Wong told an online media briefing, adding that the number of variants detected so far is not the maximum number. "There could be more than that," he warned.

It is not clear if the new variants have been causing the spike of cases observed since February.

"I think we need to take (the detection of the new variants) seriously. We have to consider that the variant is an important factor in driving the surge," Wong added.

Wong stressed the need for people to wear a face covering, maintain social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and washing hands frequently to curb the spread.

The Philippines on Monday started vaccinating health workers using China-donated Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines.

Its vaccination drive is also expected to use the 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine obtained through the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility, which arrived on Thursday.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a public forum on Friday that the Philippines needs 3.4 million doses of vaccines to vaccinate the 1.7 million health workers in the country, the priority group in the vaccination drive.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Filipinos to get vaccinated against Covid-19 "at the soonest possible time" to prevent further spread of the epidemic.

"These vaccines are safe, and they are the key to reopening our society," Duterte said on Thursday night, calling on the public to continue observing and practicing health and safety protocols while waiting for more Covid-19 vaccines.

The Philippine government aims to inoculate up to 70 million Filipinos this year to achieve herd immunity, starting with health care workers, the elderly, and the poor communities.

It is in discussions with different pharmaceutical firms to buy over 160 million vaccine doses this year. - Xinhua
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