MANILA: The Philippines reported 9,838 coronavirus cases on Friday (Mar 26), marking the highest daily jump since the pandemic began, as the World Bank warned that vaccinations needed to be a priority to limit further deaths and support the country's health system.
A recent spike in infections has forced authorities to widen tighter restrictions in the capital Manila to surrounding provinces, but once-a-day religious services with up to 10 per cent of a church's capacity will be allowed in the week ahead of Easter.
The Philippines, which is facing the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, has seen record new cases in three of the past five days, while infections reported in the past 10 days accounted for a tenth of its total 702,856 cases.
Deaths have increased to 13,149, after 54 more casualties were recorded on Friday, the health ministry said.
The capital region, a congested urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to at least 13 million people, accounted for two-fifths of the COVID-19 cases.
A University of the Philippines research team had warned that COVID-19 infections may hit 10,000 to 11,000 a day by late March because the virus reproduction rate, or RO, which measures the number of people infected by each case, had increased.
"Rapid vaccination is a priority to reduce high numbers of deaths and pressure on struggling health systems," the World Bank said in a report on Friday.
More than 508,000 people have so far been inoculated in the Philippines since the country started its vaccination drive on Mar 1, or less than 1 per cent of its 70 million target this year.
Strict lockdowns and social curbs have taken a huge toll on the Philippine economy as authorities battle the coronavirus, triggering a record 9.5 per cent economic contraction last year.
The World Bank cut its economic growth forecast for the Philippines to 5.5 per cent this year from 5.9 per cent previously. It said growth should accelerate to 6.3 per cent next year but stay below pre-pandemic levels through most of 2022.