Group warns of coronavirus variants’ spread


By Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporters

A RESEARCH team from the University of the Philippines has warned of rising coronavirus infections in Manila, the capital and nearby cities probably due to the spread of more contagious variants.

The virus reproduction rate in the capital region had reached 1.5, meaning an infected person can pass the virus to more than one person, the OCTA Research Team said in a March 1 report.

“Under the current trend, the number of new COVID-19 cases per day will increase from its current average daily value of 770 to 2,200 by the end of March unless the spread of the virus is curbed,” the researchers said.

Cases in the capital region could reach 280,000 by the end of the month from 234,754 cases now, while infections nationwide could hit 665,000, they said. The national death tally could reach 14,000 at the current reproduction rate of 1.2.


The research team cited a fresh surge in coronavirus cases in Pasay, Quezon City, Manila, Makati, Malabon, Taguig, Paranaque and Navotas.

OCTA Research fellow Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austrico said the rising infections in Metro Manila might be due to more contagious coronavirus variants. The increase has the “hallmarks of a variant-driven surge,” he told an online news briefing on Wednesday.

“When you see this pattern, especially if it is repeating itself in more local government units, you are very concerned that what you’re dealing with here is a variant,” he added.

The Health department on Tuesday reported the first six cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa, three of whom were from Pasay City.

It also reported 30 more people who got infected with a variant from the United Kingdom, bringing the total to 87.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,783 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 582,223. The death toll rose by 20 to 12,389, while recoveries increased by 330 to 534,778, it said in a bulletin.

There were 35,056 active cases, 90.1% of which were mild, 4.7% did not show symptoms, 2.2% were critical, 2.2% were severe and 0.84% were moderate.

The Health department said two duplicates had been removed from the tally, while 14 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Seven laboratories failed to submit data on Mar. 2.

About 8.3 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Mar. 1, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened more than 115.3 million and killed about 2.6 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 91.2 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, the government will take delivery of half-a-million coronavirus vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc on Thursday in a boost to its immunization drive, according to the presidential palace.

“The Philippines is set to receive 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines tomorrow, Mar. 4,” presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said in a statement on Wednesday. The shots will come under a global initiative for equal access led by the WHO, he added.

A total of 525,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses were supposed to be delivered on Monday, but these got delayed due to limited supply.

Mr. Roque earlier said the President was on standby to personally receive the AstraZeneca shots at Villamor airbase.

South Africa has stopped the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines after a study showed that these were less effective against the new variant, which accounted for about 90% of new cases there.

Meanwhile, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Jose Maria C. Concepcion said the private sector would receive about 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the second half.

He said the private sector expects to receive about eight million vaccine doses from Moderna, Inc. in the third quarter.

Mr. Concepcion said more than 400 companies have donated 2.6 million vaccine doses to the National Government. The private sector expects to receive about 28 million doses this year, he added.

The government started its vaccination drive against the coronavirus on Monday after taking delivery of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac donated by China. The drug is made by Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd.


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