DOH gearing for ‘endemic COVID-19’ status as cases drop

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
DOH gearing for âendemic COVID-19â status as cases drop
Vehicle congestion as seen on Monday morning, Nov. 8, 2021 in Quezon City along EDSA, a major thoroughfare crossing cities of Metro Manila after the national pandemic task force IATF deescalated health restrictions in the region to Alert Level 2.
The STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is gearing up for “endemic COVID-19” status even as the number of cases continues to drop.

“From pandemic to endemic COVID-19 response. It is better for us to expect that COVID-19 is not going away. It is wrong to think at this stage that COVID-19 will disappear,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the Laging Handa public briefing Tuesday.

“We will never be able to reach zero on this given the current data and available information. We have to live with it. We must accept that COVID-19 will be here to stay,” Duque added.

He said the endemic response is just similar to the pandemic response.

“Preparations for a pandemic are almost similar to the endemic status. We just need to continuously enhance it when we shift to endemic for us to be able to contain it.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined endemic as the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a specific area.

When COVID-19 becomes endemic, Duque said, it is necessary for both the government and the people to enhance the response against the illness.

One response, he said, is to continue increasing the number of fully vaccinated individuals.

Duque stressed the need for people to strictly adhere to minimum public health standards such as the use of disinfectants, face shields and masks as well as observance of social distancing and proper cough etiquette.

He said the health system’s capacity in hospitals, temporary treatment centers and monitoring and quarantine facilities as well border control measures must be strengthened.

Local government units (LGUs), Duque said, must continuously improve contact tracing, detection, isolation and disease surveillance.

Earlier, the DOH said it takes three to five years of intensive evaluation alongside the World Health Organization before a disease can be classified as endemic.

To achieve this, health authorities said an area needs to be observed for years and swab tests should be conducted on the general population.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila may be eligible to downgrade to the most lenient alert level if the downtrend in COVID cases continues, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said yesterday. – Romina Cabrera



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