Politics

Philippines logs 402 new infections, 184 more COVID-19 deaths

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PEOPLE waited for their turn to be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at SM Megamall at the start of the government’s three-day vaccination drive on Nov. 29. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINES reported 402 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 2.84 million.

The death toll hit 50,280 after 184 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 509 to 2.78 million, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin.

There were 11,255 active cases, 876 of which did not show symptoms, 4,334 were mild, 3,683 were moderate, 1,961 were severe and 401 were critical.

The agency said 3% of the 184 deaths occurred in December, 19% in November, 40% in October, 29% in September, 5% in August, 2% in July, and 1% each in June and February.

It added that six duplicates had been removed from the tally, six of which were reclassified as recoveries, while 178 recoveries were relisted as deaths.

DoH said 164 patients had tested negative and were removed from the tally, 159 of which were recoveries. Four laboratories did not operate on Dec. 10, while three failed to submit data.

The agency said 23% of intensive care units in the Philippines were occupied, while the rate for Metro Manila was 26%.

The Philippines wants to vaccinate more Filipinos against the coronavirus amid the threat of the Omicron variant.

The Health department last month said the country was struggling to obtain syringes used in administering mRNA vaccines such as those developed by Pfizer, Inc. and Moderna, Inc. due to an apparent global shortage.

At the weekend, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said the country had missed the opportunity to get 50 million syringes after the government “dropped the ball again.”

Mr. Locsin tweeted on Saturday night that the need for the syringes had been discussed in Washington but Philippine agencies refused to discuss the matter. He did not elaborate.

He tweeted hours later that the Health department had offered to buy syringes at 4.7 cents each, which he described as hallucinatory because no one makes “special Pfizer low dead volume syringes that cheap.”

“We’re not exactly poor as you’d know if you knew what we’ve been paying for vaccines,” Mr. Locsin said in response to a Twitter user’s comment that the Philippines should accept the deal if it was a donation.

On Sunday, DoH and the country’s pandemic task force said government was ensuring to have enough syringe supply, particularly the 0.3 ml syringes or micro syringes that are compatible with Pfizer vaccines and 0.5ml auto-disable syringes that are used for all the other vaccines.

The “two batches of procurement through the United Nations Children’s Fund were undertaken,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

The first batch, which included 8 million 0.3ml syringes worth P29.1 million, was completely delivered in October, they said.

The second batch, which was financed by the Asian Development Bank, consisted of 44 million syringes worth P152.6 million, they added. “Of this second batch, four million will be delivered in Dec. 2021 and the remaining 40 million during the first quarter of 2022 due to global supply shortage.”

The agencies said 3.65 million syringes out of the four million have been delivered and the rest is expected this week.

The Health department said that it had also bought 100 million pieces of 0.5ml AD syringes in April at P2.38 apiece “from an initial approved budget of P2.50 per piece.”

“Thus, P2.38 per piece or 4.8 cents was used as a basis for the ongoing emergency procurement of another batch of 50 million pieces of 0.5ml AD syringes,” it said.

“We assure the public that the DoH is continuously ensuring a sufficient stockpile of syringes and that processes to obtain these are consistent with the provisions of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Act,” Health Undersecretary Charade Mercado-Grande said.

Meanwhile, the pandemic task force said in the same release that “no Moderna vaccines have been refused by the Philippine government.”

The Philippines got about 3 million Moderna vaccines from the US under a global initiative for equal access in August, the pandemic task force said. “No other Moderna vaccine offer has been received by the Vaccine Cluster. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza