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DOH says government ready in case of new COVID surge

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
DOH says government ready in case of new COVID surge
A child looks on at a playground in Quezon City, suburban Manila on March 6, 2022, as the government placed some parts of the country on the lowest pandemic alert system.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The health department has given assurances that the government is ready for another surge in COVID-19 infections, but President Rodrigo Duterte is not yet inclined to lift the alert levels in the country despite the improving pandemic situation.

During a meeting of the government's pandemic task force Tuesday night, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the government is monitoring the COVID-19 cases and the spread of new variants worldwide.

He noted that the XE variant, a combination of the original BA.1 omicron variant and its subvariant BA.2, has been detected in the Philippines' neighbor Thailand. Duque said based on initial data, the variant, which was first reported in the United Kingdom, is about 10 percent more transmissible compared to the BA.2 sublineage, the dominant variant during the COVID-19 case surge in the Philippines last January.

"We are ready even if we have a low number of cases right now. We are ready, Mr. President, in case of another surge and hopefully it doesn’t happen," Duque told President Duterte during the meeting.

"But we are ready, Mr. President, as we have managed fairly well the past surges: the Omicron, the Delta, the Alpha, Beta. And in fact, even in 2020, the first major surge of July, August, we were able to manage it fairly well, and again it’s because of the good compliance to minimum public health standards," he added.

Duque also reported that the Philippines remains at minimal risk classification with low risk healthcare utilization rates.

Alert levels retained

Despite the downward trend in COVID-19 case rates, Duterte said he won't lift the alert levels yet because other areas are still grappling with pandemic infections.

"You know almost everyone wants to go back to zero or (Alert Level) 1. That cannot be because some areas still have (infections). Until such time that we only have one or two (cases) all over the country, Alert Level 1 would still be a good, like a buffer for us," Duterte said.

"Let us not lift that first until we are very sure that everything is really all right especially in our area because it would reinfect and reinfect and then there is a new mutant, we might have problems," he added.

Nearly 200 areas, including Metro Manila, were placed under the most relaxed Alert Level 1 from April 1 to 15 as the number of COVID-19 infections continues to drop.  

Under the alert status, business establishments and venues for social gatherings may be filled up to their capacities but health protocols like the wearing of face masks, proper ventilation, and proper hygiene should be followed.

The health department previously said a status lower than Alert Level 1 would only be declared if all areas in the Philippines are already under Alert Level 1. The agency has also clarified that "Alert Level Zero" is not yet an official term of the government as it may cause complacency in the observance of safety measures.

The Philippines recorded 2,548 cases from March 30 to April 5, lower than the 2,643 new infections posted during the previous week. Only 15.6 percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 17.7 percent of non-ICU beds are in use.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

FRANCISCO DUQUE III

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