Medical health workers wearing protective masks are seen during the pilot testing of the COVID-19 saliva sample at the Philippine Red Cross in Manila, the Philippines, Jan. 12, 2021. The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines on Tuesday reported 1,524 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number in the country to 491,258. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)
MANILA, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines on Tuesday reported 1,524 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number in the country to 491,258.
The death toll climbed to 9,554 after 139 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said, adding that 44 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 458,172.
The Philippines, which has about 110 million population, has tested over 6.6 million people since the disease emerged in January last year.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH is observing the spike of cases recorded in recent days, adding that the agency needs another week to conclude if the increase indicates a post-holiday surge.
"We are still monitoring. We are looking at the trend. We want to be very sure. That's why we need another week for us to be able to say if there is increasing in the number of cases," she told an online briefing.
"We have to look at (these numbers) cautiously because there are still intervening factors," she added, citing the return of laboratories to normal operations after the holidays.
World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that a surge is "inevitable" as Filipinos failed to observe physical distancing during the holiday season.
"We've seen over the holiday season that this physical distancing requirement has not been followed. There has been a lot of get-togethers and the massive get-together (such as during a religious event)," he told an online briefing.
"This kind of close contact will give rise to further transmission of the virus or more infection of new people, so it is inevitable that the Philippines is going to see an increase of cases," he said.
He stressed the government needs to identify the infected, ramp up contact tracing "so that the chain of transmission is interrupted."
Abeyasinghe said an "effective response to the surge" is needed to bring this situation rapidly under control.
"It is critically important that the DOH and the local government units put in place mechanisms to initiate early actions so that further transmission can be reduced," he added.