MANILA, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Wednesday 1,783 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 582,223.
The death toll climbed to 12,389 after 20 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said. It added 330 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 534,778.
The Philippines, which has about 110 million population, has tested over 8 million people since the disease emerged in January last year.
The DOH sees a spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the country, saying the increase broke the plateauing trend observed in February.
"The plateauing trend seen in the past month was broken by a spike in new COVID-19 cases this week nationally," Alethea de Guzman, director of DOH Epidemiology Bureau, said in an online briefing on Wednesday.
De Guzman said the DOH observed persistent cluster infections in Metro Manila, the Central Visayas region, and a region in the northern Philippines.
In Metro Manila, De Guzman said the "case increase (is) seen in a majority of areas and all have an upward trend." She added that infections in Metro Manila rose 55.47 percent over the past two weeks.
However, De Guzman said the health care utilization rates in the three regions remain in the "safe zone" despite the uptick. "Our health system capacity is enough," she added.
The independent OCTA Research Group echoed the DOH assessment, saying that "the overall trend (in Metro Manila) is an upward trend."
"We are seeing an upward trend. In fact, the upward trend is quite fast," OCTA Research Group fellow Guido David said in a separate briefing.
On Tuesday, the DOH confirmed the detection of six variant cases found in South Africa for the first time in the country. Four of the six were detected in Metro Manila communities, the DOH said.
Aside from the variant found in South Africa, the Philippines also detected 87 cases of the coronavirus variant found in Britain.
The OCTA Research Group said the emergence of the two fast-spreading variants might have caused the uptick in cases, but the DOH noted otherwise.
The Philippines rolled out on Monday its mass vaccination against COVID-19 using a batch doses of the Sinovac-made vaccine CoronaVac that China donated over the weekend.
The government aims to inoculate up to 70 million Filipinos this year to achieve herd immunity, starting with health care workers, the elderly, and the poor communities.
The Philippines is negotiating to buy over 160 million vaccine doses from different pharmaceutical firms this year, including Sinovac.