Health workers from the government-run Philippine General Hospital hold placards as they ask the government to release their risk allowances amid rising Covid-19 infections, in Manila on August 26, 2021. Photo: AFP / Ted Aljibe

The Philippines topped two million coronavirus cases Wednesday as the country battles a record surge in infections that the World Health Organization confirmed is being driven by the hyper-contagious Delta strain.

In recent weeks, daily case rates have hit the highest levels since the start of the pandemic and the health department warned the trend could continue.

Wednesday’s official data show the country recorded 14,216 new infections, taking the total caseload to just over two million, with 33,533 deaths in the country of 110 million people.

“It is possible the number of Covid-19 cases will rise some more in the coming days,” the health department said Wednesday.

Daily cases exceeded 22,000 for the first time on Monday – more than double the number on August 6 when the sprawling national capital region went back into lockdown. 

WHO representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said Tuesday the latest resurgence was being driven by the Delta variant, which has ripped through neighboring countries.

“More than 70% of the current transmission is attributable to the Delta variant,” Abeyasinghe told reporters, citing the results of genome sequencing.

The lockdown in the capital and nearby provinces has been extended until next week as authorities battle to slow the spread of the virus.

Abeyasinghe said the latest lockdown, accelerating vaccination rate and increased hospital bed capacity had so far prevented “a complete overwhelming” of the country’s healthcare system.

But nurses groups complain there is a serious shortage of healthcare workers to look after the increased number of patients after many resigned.

They have been staging protests outside hospitals to demand higher pay, the release of financial benefits and the hiring of more staff.