Philippines Crosses 3 Million Total COVID Cases as Omicron Overtakes Delta

The Philippines on Tuesday crossed the three-million mark for COVID-19 cases, a new grim milestone reached at record pace because of a surge in infections driven by the hyper-contagious Omicron variant.

There were 28,007 new COVID-19 infections reported on Tuesday, bringing the total active infections to 181,016. There were 4,471 new recoveries, and 219 new deaths reported.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Philippines has reported a total of 3,026,473 COVID-19 infections of which 2,792,946 have recovered, and 52,511 have died. The positivity rate was at 44.5%, meaning for every 10 tests, at least four turned out positive for COVID.

"Talagang ang tulin, ang bilis ng kalat ng kaso," Health Sec. Francisco Duque III told President Rodrigo Duterte during a late-night cabinet meeting Monday. In the two week period from Dec. 28 to Jan. 10, cases jumped 3,663% compared to the Dec. 14 to 27 period, he said.



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How did we get here?

The Philippines reached the three-million mark of COVID-19 cases on the third year of the pandemic, over four months after it breached 2 million infections in September 2021, and over eight months after it reported its first million in April of the same year.

Late on Monday, the Department of Health said Omicron overtook Delta as the dominant variant in the Philippines, accounting for six in every 10 infections based on belated analysis of positive samples.

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COVID-19 cases rapidly increased after Christmas, even doubling after a few days. The fresh surge welcomed Filipinos at the start of 2022 following a period of easing in COVID-19 protocols for the holidays backed by a lull in COVID-19 cases.

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The WHO's COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove had said it was "very unlikely" that Omicron would be the last variant of concern before the pandemic is over.

In facing the more transmissible Omicron variant, Van Kerkhove urged people to step up the measures they were already taking to protect themselves against the virus.

--with a report from Agence France Presse

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