New wave of COVID-19 infections in PHL ‘inevitable’

THEN HEALTH SECRETARY Francisco Duque III administering COVID vaccine on President Duterte while Sen. Bong Go looks on in this file photo.

By Jeanne Michael Penaranda
MANILA – Another wave of new corona virus infections is “inevitable” in the Philippines following increased public mobility, easing of restrictions, especially during the election campaigns, and  new variants,  the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines declared.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque and National Task Force against COVID chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. affirmed the WHO statement, adding that the government is closely monitoring the possible spike of active coronavirus cases in the country by mid-May following the campaign-related mass gatherings and emergence of Omicron subvariants abroad.

Earlier, the OCTA Research Group said an increase in new Covid-19 cases has been seen in certain areas.

It added the cases could reach 5,000 to 10,000 a day once the new Omicron subvariants enter the country.
The government would resort to localized lockdowns should there be an increase in Covid-19 cases after the May 9 elections, said NTF adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa.

This as the Department of Health disclosed that a case of the omicron BA.2.12 was detected in a foreigner in Baguio City early April but the patient has recovered and returned to Finland, her home country.

The BA.2.12 is a subvariant of omicron that comprises majority of the COVID-19 cases in the US, according to the DOH, citing data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC).
The DOH urged the public to wear the best-fitting mask, isolate when sick, double-up protection through vaccination and boosters, and ensure good airflow in their homes and workplaces to avoid all new and circulating variants.

The patient was a 52-year-old woman who arrived from Finland last April 2 who did not undergo isolation since she was fully vaccinated and arrived asymptomatic, the DOH said.

The woman traveled to Quezon City and Baguio City to conduct seminars and experienced mild symptoms after 9 days, according to DOH.

Nine asymptomatic close contacts were identified, with 2 of them tested and yielded negative results,  the DOH said.

 Galvez said that some areas will become vulnerable to the disease, in the advent of new cases resurgence, due to their very low vaccination coverage.

In a report to President Duterte, Galvez disclosed that at Test, Trace and Treat meeting  with the private sector and experts, Father Nic Austriaco presented the emergence of the three Omicron variants — two from South Africa and one from the United States – which will very likely will hit the Philippines..

WHO officials said the Philippines must focus on COVID-19 vaccination to avoid a surge as COVID-19 restrictions ease and the public’s mobility increases.

Many barangays have yet to reach 70 percent vaccination coverage, according to WHO representative Rajendra Yadav, who suggested a possible house-to-house or close to home vaccination.

Task Force T3 (Test, Trace and Treat) is composed of a multi-sectoral public-private consortium of companies and organizations, that is helping the government to identify the most urgent requirements to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Galvez said the Omicron sub-lineages BA.4 and BA.5 variants that were recently monitored in South Africa and Europe are both declared by the health experts as “variants of concerns that” that can possibly cause “a global economic downturn and reinstatement of travel restrictions.”

He warned that these variants may also cause Covid-19 upticks once they emerge in the Philippines.

“Inuulit po namin na very imminent na po na tataas ang ating mga kaso at very vulnerable ang mga hindi pa bakunado dahil 95 percent po ng namamatay ay unvaccinated (We repeat that the spike in cases is very imminent and those unvaccinated will become very vulnerable since 95 percent of death are unvaccinated),” he said.

Galvez cited the latest data from the Department of Health that there is an increase of cases in 13 areas previously placed under the most lenient Alert level 1 system.

“Though there are no signs of alarm but they are monitoring it. And with this, many experts predicted, including OCTA, that in mid-May we will have a dramatic increase of new cases. Meaning, Covid-19 is still here. We should not be complacent,” he added.

Galvez likewise urged those fully vaccinated to avail of the booster shots amid waning vaccine immunity due to emerging Covid-19 variants.