Local COVID-19 infections nearing 550,000

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People wearing face masks and face shields walk along a street market in Manila, Dec 14, 2020. — REUTERS/LISA MARIE DAVID

THE Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,928 coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 549,176.

The death toll rose to 11,515 after eight more patients died, while recoveries increased by 10,967 to 511,743, it said in a bulletin.

There were 25,918 active cases, 86% of which were mild, 7.2% did not show symptoms, 3% were critical, 2.9% were severe and 0.91% were moderate.

More than 7.8 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Feb. 12, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 109.1 million and killed more than 2.4 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

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About 81.2 million people have recovered, it said.

It added that active cases stood at 25.4 million, less 1% of which or 98,708 were either serious or critical.

The United States had the most infections at 28.2 million, followed by India with 10.9 million and Brazil with 9.8 million. The US also had the most deaths at 496,063, Brazil had 238,647 and India had 173,771.

The DoH on Friday reported 19 more cases infected with a more contagious coronavirus strain, bringing the total in the Philippines to 44.

Of the 19 cases, three came from the Davao region — a 10 year-old boy, a 54 year-old woman, and a 33 year-old male. They had no known links to each other and had mild symptoms.

Two came from the Calabarzon region — a 20 year-old young woman who was swabbed and had an unknown exposure on Dec. 22. The other was a 76 year-old woman who was exposed to a patient on Jan. 21 and had mild symptoms.

Eight others were returning Filipinos from overseas aged 28 to 53 years and tested at different laboratories. Six of them had been isolated, while two had recovered, DoH said.

The agency said more six cases were still being verified if they were locals or returning migrant Filipinos.

“Case investigation and contact tracing shall also immediately be initiated by the DOH through the Centers for Health Development and regional epidemiology and surveillance units, in close coordination with concerned local government units and health offices, local epidemiology and surveillance units, and law enforcement,” it said.

ENTERTAINMENT
Meanwhile, Philippine cinemas would be allowed to operate with up to half their capacity in areas under a general lockdown, according to the Trade department.

Movie theaters can fill half their seats in these areas and up to 75% of seats in areas under a modified general quarantine, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters in a mobile message on Sunday.

The government recently allowed cinemas and other leisure establishments such as arcades, cultural centers, theme parks and tourist attractions to resume operations in areas under a general community quarantine (GCQ).

Movie industry revenues shrank to P1.3 billion last year from the usual P13 billion after cinemas shut during the lockdown, Mr. Lopez said.

He added that about 300,000 workers rely on the industry, which include film production, distribution and movie theaters.

Metro Manila mayors have expressed reservations about the decision, saying local government leaders had not been consulted.

Metro Manila Council Chairman and Parañaque City Mayor Edwin D. Olivarez said the council might appeal against the reopening of cinemas, noting that they are enclosed spaces.

People who stay in an enclosed space for at least an hour with people with coronavirus symptoms could be at higher risk of infection, according to the World Health Organization.

The presidential palace earlier said the Philippines was expected to start inoculating Filipinos against the coronavirus this month as it takes delivery of vaccine orders.

The government expects to vaccinate as many as 70 million citizens against the coronavirus by yearend, vaccine czar Carlito A. Galvez, Jr. said this month.

The country will get about 10 million doses of vaccines under a global initiative for equal access this quarter, including 117,000 doses from Pfizer, Inc. that might arrive this month, he said.

The government seeks to inoculate 70 to 80 million Filipino adults to achieve herd immunity, he added. The vaccine doesn’t need to be given to all Filipinos based on herd immunity, when a large portion of the population becomes immune to the disease, making its spread unlikely. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Jenina P. Ibañez

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