END OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN SIGHT? PHL may lift state of calamity, wants health protocols still followed
By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief
MANILA/GENEVA – Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health in the Philippines have noted a slowdown on the spread of Covid-19 but continue to advise the people to follow health protocols as some countries have dropped pandemic restrictions.
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier as he expressed optimism on the outlook from the global health pandemic surveillance.
“Sa tingin ko (I think), with this plateauing of cases, improved vaccination coverage and minimal na severe and critical admissions in hospitals, we can recommend to the president itong lifting itong state of calamity,” said Health Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The health authorities, at the same time, reminded the public to proceed with their daily lives with caution, by following health protocols.
In a related development, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at San Lazaro Hospital, said the COVID-19 situation in the country is showing indicators that its endemic state may be nearing.
In another development, the independent OCTA Research Group said it sees a continuing downward trend in COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region.
In a report, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said the seven-day positivity rate in the region dropped to 17.3 percent as of Oct. 10, from 19 percent a week ago or Oct. 3.
“Let’s hope the downward trend continues the rest of the year,” David said.
Solante said in a television interview the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has been on a downtrend and most cases are only showing mild symptoms.
“When you say endemic, [it] means that cases are really already low,” Solante explained.
Solante said COVID-19 may be in an endemic state in the Philippines if the positivity rate is less than 10 percent, the healthcare utilization rate is less than 50 percent, and at least 50 percent of the population have received their booster shots against the disease.
Once the state of calamity is lifted, Solante said COVID-19 vaccines will no longer be free.
She recommended taking vaccines that protect from both COVID-19 and the flu.
“As the world is opening up and people are mixing again, we’re starting to see circulation of other viruses,” she said.
Van Kerkhove urged countries to also prepare health systems and conduct active surveillance for the detection of the known variants and subvariants that are circulating.
Of the 605 BA.5 cases, 22 are from the Ilocos Region, 63 from Cagayan Valley, 28 from Central Luzon, one from Bicol Region, 26 from Western Visayas, 52 from Central Visayas, three from Zamboanga Peninsula, 12 from Northern Mindanao, 46 from Davao Region, 145 from Soccsksargen, 30 from Calabarzon, 12 from Mimaropa, 12 from Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 39 from Cordillera Administrative Region, five from Caraga, 107 from the National Capital Region (NCR), and two are returning overseas Filipinos.
For the 18 additional BA.4 cases, one is from Cagayan Valley, one is from Bicol Region, one is from Northern Mindanao, and 15 from Soccsksargen.
One of the five new BA.2.75 cases are from the Ilocos Region, one from Central Luzon, one from Central Visayas, one from Davao Region, and one returning overseas Filipino.
The DOH also detected 93 new cases of Delta variant — one in Cagayan Valley, one in Central Visayas, 36 in Davao Region, 51 in Soccsksargen, two from Calabarzon, one from Caraga, one from NCR and one being verified.
All the reported cases are based on the latest genome sequencing results Oct. 7 to 10.