TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – COVID-19 tests in Eastern Visayas showed a 45% positivity rate on Tuesday, January 11, the highest percentage since the start of the pandemic, according to the Department of Health (DOH) Region 8.
The regional health office said 159 of 355 persons tested were confirmed to have the virus.
But the DOH’s Wednesday, January 12, update showed confirmed cases doubling to 318 from 726 samples tastes, with a positivity rate of 44%.
The results came from three COVID-19 laboratories in the region: the Eastern Visayas Regional COVID-19 Testing Center (EVRCTC), the Divine Word Hospital Virology Laboratory (DWHVL) and the Ormoc Molecular Diagnostic Center (OMDC), data from the regional health office showed.
Tacloban City and Leyte have the highest numbers of new cases, with 87 each, followed by Samar with 84. Southern Leyte, badly hit by Typhoon Odette in December 2021, reported only three new cases.
As of January 12 the region’s total COVID-19 cases stood at 52,443, with recoveries at 50,850 (96.96%) and deaths at 631 (1.20%). Currently, there are 962 active cases in Eastern Visayas.
DOH chief regional epidemiologist Marc Steven Capungcol in a virtual presser on Wednesday, January 12, attributed the surge of COVID-19 cases to the relaxation of health protocols and travel requirements.
He said that the region previously quarantined arrivals. But now, he pointed out, “people from different regions and places can quickly enter our region,” he said in a mix of Waray and English.
Capungcol also cited superspreader events brought about by gatherings during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“Now we’re seeing the effects of gatherings during the holidays,” he said.
On the DOH Region 8 Facebook page, Capungcol admitted the rising cases took officials by surprise. But, he added, most patients are asymptomatic or have mild or moderate symptoms.
While there are still no confirmed Omicron cases in Eastern Visayas, Capungcol said that it’s possible that a new variant of concern is driving the spike of COVID-19 cases in the region.
“We would also like to know if what’s driving the spike of cases here is Delta or Omicron,” he said, noting that the dominant strain in the region is Delta with 112 cases recorded so far.
The DOH in the region, Capungcol said, submitted 86 qualified samples to the Philippine Genome Center and is awaiting the results to determine if the samples are variants of concern. – Rappler.com
Brynch Bonachita is a Visayas-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.