MANILA — Department of Health (DOH) Undersec. Maria Rosario Vergeire presented on March 18 data showing a 29 percent lower average of daily COVID-19 cases in the country from March 10 to 16 or a total of 534 infections from the previous week’s average of 752 cases daily.

“Our epidemic curve shows that while a swift decline followed a peak of cases, this decline has markedly slowed down over the past weeks,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire also confirmed that the country is yet to detect the “Deltacron” or a recombinant variant of the Delta and Omicron and the Omicron subvariant BA.2.2.

“The BA.2.2 is a combination of omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 first detected in Israel in a patient who presented mild symptoms,” she said, noting nearly half or 49.6 percent of COVID-19 hospital admissions were mild and asymptomatic cases while 37.76 percent were moderate and 12.47 percent were severe and critical cases.

She also noted that the Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 were responsible for the Philippines’ surge in cases last January.

“We’re closely monitoring at katulad ng sabi ng ating ibang eksperto I think the Philippines has been blessed dahil nauna po tayo dun sa BA.2 nitong Enero dahil nakikita po natin ngayon sa ibang parte ng Europe at ibang bansa ngayon pa lang pumapasok ang BA.2 sa kanila,” she said.

“Hanggang sa ngayon wala pa po tayong nade-detect na Deltacron dito sa ating bansa. Nakabantay po tayo sa ating borders,” she added.

In a report by the ABS-CBN News Channel, DOH technical advisory group member Dr. Edsel Salavana said the country will not experience a major spike in COVID-19 cases should Deltacron enter following the exposure to a related subvariant.

“Yung sa ‘tin kasi dito may distinct mutations din, sa atin is BA.2.3 so magkakalapit lang talaga ang genetic provenance n’yan. So, we actually expect kung meron na tayong tinatawag na hybrid immunity, that’s when you get mild breakthrough infection, protective ‘yan against BA.2.2,” Salvana said.

“Even if makapasok yan dito, chances are ‘di na ‘yan magdudulot ng kasing-laking spike dahil meron na tayong exposure dito,” he added, urging the public to remain vigilant by practicing minimum health standards.

Vergeire also allayed fears of easing inbound travel restrictions amid the possible entry of the Deltacron subvariant.

“Huwag ho kayong mangangamba dahil even though we allowed travelers, meron pa rin po tayong mga protocols na pinapatupad so we have safeguards. We also still have our surveillance system kung saan naco-closely monitor po natin ang sitwasyon sa ibang bansa through our international health regulations networks at ‘yung pagpasok po ay nakokontrol at namomonitor pa rin natin,” she said.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said the DOH will revert to issuing daily case bulletins if there is a rise in virus infections.

“As soon as there would be an increase in the number of cases, we will immediately call our local governments, inform the public about this,” she said, noting cases are still being reported in the daily tracker and anyone can still access it.

In another report by ONE News, OCTA Research’s latest report also shows the Philippines with the fourth lowest growth rate in COVID-19 cases with a seven-day average of only 527 cases and a growth rate of negative 22 percent.

“As of March 18, the country has an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of only 0.47,” OCTA Research fellow Guido David said in a Twitter post on March 20.

“Timor-Leste, Taiwan, Cambodia and China are also at very low risk. Surge in cases is happening in South Korea, Vietnam, China and Laos,” he added.

PH to open to tourists from all countries this April

In a radio interview on March 17, Department of Tourism (DOT) Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the Philippines will open its borders to travelers from all countries by April 1 following the Inter-Agency Task Force’s (IATF) approval.

“Starting April 1, pumayag na ang IATF na all countries na ang papayagan dito. Noong February 10, nagbukas tayo for visa-free countries. Starting April 1, for all countries,” she said.

Romulo-Puyat noted that travelers from visa countries must present a negative laboratory-based antigen result taken 24 hours before departure as part of the requirements set by the IATF.

“Normally, for RT-PCR, you test positive for the next three months when you get COVID-19. Now, with the negative lab-based antigen, that captures those who have recovered,” Puyat said, noting the country has welcomed 96,000 tourists since the easing up of its borders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “And this is only from visa-free countries.”

12,000 tourists daily

In a report by The Philippine Star, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) told the Laging Handa forum on March 19, they are expecting a daily average of over 12,000 tourist arrivals in summer amid loosened travel restrictions despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are seeing that this will increase little by little, and we’re expecting that it might reach 12,000 on the average per day, given this season, when we see a lot of foreign nationals may come here,” BI Spokesperson Dana Sandoval said.