WHO says rise in COVID-19 cases 'inevitable' after holidays, Traslacion

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
WHO says rise in COVID-19 cases 'inevitable' after holidays, Traslacion
Photo taken on Jan 9, 2020, shows devotees standing outside Quiapo Church during the first fiesta mass, signaling the start of Traslacion 2021.
Released / Manila Public Information Office

MANILA, Philippines — The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Philippines said it is “inevitable” that COVID-19 cases will rise in the country following the holidays and the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

Rabindra Abeyansinghe said Tuesday that physical distancing measures were not followed over the holidays, which saw increased mobility of people, and during the celebration of the Black Nazarene’s feast in Manila, where devotees at times clumped together to get blessed with holy water or receive communion.

“This kind of close contact will give rise for further transmission of the virus for further infection of new people,” Abeyasignhe said on the “Laging Handa” briefing aired on state-run People’s Television. “So it is inevitable that the Philippines is going to see an increase of cases.”

The Philippines recorded Monday a new three-week high of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day, with the country’s Department of Health reporting 2,052 new cases of the contagious respiratory disease.

It was also the first time in three weeks that cases reached the 2,000-level following a lull during the holidays due to decreased testing.

Private research firm OCTA Research also flagged in their latest release a “clear upward trend” in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, warning that local governments should implement measures to reverse this trajectory “before the pandemic gets out of hand.”

How can the Philippines respond?

With the post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases no longer a mere possibility but already in the country’s midst, Abeyansinghe said coronavirus patients must be identified early so contact tracing teams can identify and manage their close contacts so the transmission of the virus is interrupted.

“Further transmission can be reduced, suppressed through early quarantining, early isolation, early testing, sharing of information,” he added.

The Philippines has not only been haunted by the specter of a post-holiday spike in cases but also by the possibility that new variants of the coronavirus, believed to be more infectious than the original variant, would enter the country, further complicating its pandemic response.

Abeyansinghe said the country should double its efforts in imposing stringent restrictions at points of entry and contact tracing, while the public should continue practicing frequent hand washing and physical distancing, and wearing masks and face shields.

“It is now time that we use those efforts to prevent the need for another big lockdown by initiating early action to identify and suppress potential increases in transmission whether they are due to the wild type or due to the new variants,” he said.

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