Philippines on alert as COVID-19 infections hit 2-month high

James B. Beal
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People wearing face masks as protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) wait to ride a bus going to provinces, a day before the New Year's Eve, at a bus terminal in Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines, December 30, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

People wearing face masks as protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) wait to ride a bus going to provinces, a day before the New Year's Eve, at a bus terminal in Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines, December 30, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

MANILA, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Philippine officials on Friday warned against a rise in COVID-19 cases over the New Year period as infections in the Southeast Asian country hit a two-month high, amid concerns that the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus could spread.

The health ministry recorded 2,961 new coronavirus infections on Friday and reported a positivity rate of 10.3%, double the 5% recommended by the World Health Organization.

"We cannot sugarcoat this. This is not how we want to start the year 2022," presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles told a regular news conference.

With roughly 2.84 million total confirmed cases and 51,504 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

The Philippines has so far detected four Omicron cases, all of which were in quarantine, although the country's genome sequencing capacity is limited.

"It is prudent to assume that Omicron is already in circulation, or is already in the community," Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a separate news conference.

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