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âBehavior biggest challenge in curbing COVID-19â
People are seen swimming in a pool at Gubat Sa Ciudad Resort in Caloocan City on May 9, 2021 despite the implementation of MECQ in the NCR+ bubble.
The STAR/Boy Santos

‘Behavior biggest challenge in curbing COVID-19’

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - May 12, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Fourteen months into the pandemic, people’s fear of COVID-19 seems to have diminished, driving them to become complacent with health protocols, a member of the Department of Health’s Technical Advisory Group (DOH-TAG) said Monday night.

According to TAG member and pediatric infectious disease expert Anna Ong-Lim, people were more afraid of the “unknown” brought about by COVID-19 last year.

“Now, it seems we have become more relaxed since one year had passed and we are still here. People now have more courage and this translates to behavior,” she told ‘The Chiefs’ on One News.

Lim was commenting on how some 500 people went swimming in the Gubat sa Ciudad resort in Caloocan City during Mother’s Day last Sunday, violating health protocols and quarantine restrictions.

The expert noted it is “saddening” that this happened despite the repeated warnings of all sectors on how the virus is transmitted.

“It’s not the swimming that is the problem. It’s the close contact with people in a manner that does not provide you protection. Water does not transmit the virus but it is when you get close to each other,” she maintained.

Lim added behavioral issues are actually challenges for containment of infection.

“In the hierarchy of controls, the behavioral aspect is at the bottom of the inverted pyramid because it is the hardest to control,” she said.

Because of this, she underscored the need to strengthen other prevention strategies that are “independent of behaviors such as environment and engineering controls.”

“We should not rely only on behavior, just like now when people’s patience is running thin and they are no longer afraid to do things they want to do,” she pointed out.

Lim cautioned that what happened at the resort will “backfire on the communities” where the guests come from.

“I don’t think those people come from very far places … just wait, in about two weeks’ time, cases will surely increase,” she added. 

Meanwhile, the DOH has denied accusations that it had purchased P1 billion worth of Remdesivir, an investigational drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

In a statement, DOH clarified that they had initially planned to procure Remdesivir and other investigational drugs, but this did not push through.

The DOH said to be able to procure investigational drugs, a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR), or an emergency use authorization (EUA) is needed. 

“As such, the procurement could not proceed as none of the investigational drugs have been granted these requisite regulatory approvals during the time of procurement,” it noted.

Despite this, a number of DOH hospitals, including specialty hospitals in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon – now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic – have been issued Compassionate Special Permits (CSP) to use the drug.

A CSP allows the procurement of investigational drugs even without CPR or EUAs. The CSP is a special permit that allows institutions to avail themselves of unregistered drugs and devices and use them under certain conditions. 

“Thus, to ensure continued access to promising investigational drugs, especially when experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, funds of around P3 million to P5 million were downloaded to these authorized facilities for the procurement of COVID-19 therapeutics,” the DOH added.

According to DOH, the continued use of Remdesivir for COVID-19 patients of certain disposition is “fully supported by a consensus panel of 19 medical societies as reflected in the Philippine COVID-19 Living Recommendations.”

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