The Philippines is grappling with a Covid-19 surge that has accelerated at a pace not seen since the start of the pandemic. But fewer people are severely ill than in previous waves, an encouraging sign for countries bracing for a similar rise in cases.
The government said this week there was a “very high” likelihood that the Omicron variant had fueled the latest outbreak, which began after the Christmas and New Year holiday period, though sequencing results have also shown that the Delta variant is still spreading in the country.
What is clear is that infections appear different. Hospitals are not yet overwhelmed. Patients are showing up at health care facilities with other illnesses and then learning they have the coronavirus. People are recovering faster.
The outbreak in the Philippines adds to a growing body of evidence worldwide that the Omicron variant may not be as deadly as feared, especially among the vaccinated. Still, experts are urging caution.
Already, the surge has caused a run on medicines, and the rapid transmissibility of the virus could create new opportunities for more dangerous mutations to spread. Hospitals could be crushed in a country with one of the lowest vaccination rates in Asia, a region that is still bracing for its first wave of Omicron infections.