DOH: COVID-19 cases continue to decline

Shiela Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
DOH: COVID-19 cases continue to decline
Lines are still long in Pinyahan Elementary School despite sweltering heat, and malfunctions of Vote Counting Machines, May 9, 2022.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the rampant violations of safety protocols this election season, cases of COVID-19 continue to be on a downward trend, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire confirmed that nationally, the number of COVID-19 cases has been going down.

A total of 1,115 new cases or 159 cases per day were recorded from May 3 to 9.

“This is lower by 95 cases or 37 percent lower than the 254 cases per day recorded between Dec. 18-24, 2021 before our Omicron experience,” she said last Tuesday.

The DOH official noted that the country is at “minimal-risk case classification” for COVID-19.

Five regions that are at “low-risk classification” are now experiencing slight increases in new infections: Cagayan Valley, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Bicol, Western Visayas and Eastern Visayas, which posted “positive growth rate in the recent two weeks.”

On the other hand, Ilocos, Central Luzon and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are at “minimal-risk case classification,” but they registered “positive growth rate in the recent one week,” according to the DOH.

“However, these slight increases in cases did not translate to higher average daily attack rates. What is important is that they did not translate to higher admissions in our hospitals,” Vergeire said.

She added that the health care utilization rate – the utilization of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, ward beds and mechanical ventilators assigned to COVID-19 patients – remains to be at “low-risk classification.”

“The national admission rates is on a plateau with a slight decline at 16 percent utilization rate. The ICU bed utilization is also on a plateau at 17 percent utilization,” Vergeire said.

No rush

For Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the administration of a second booster to the general population need not be rushed, given the world’s limited experience with COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 jabs are not like the vaccines against measles or polio, which enjoy “high confidence level,” according to Duque.

He stressed the first booster is enough, in the meantime, for certain sectors, as the virus and data on vaccines continue to evolve.

“It is better to be prudent and be careful. Let us learn from the experiences in other countries that are giving second booster aggressively,” he said in a radio interview.

Currently, the administration of a second booster is allowed only among immunocompromised persons (ICPs), as recommended by the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).

The council is still reviewing if the fourth dose should be given to senior citizens, frontline health care workers and overseas Filipino workers, as this is required by some host countries.

Duque cited the United States, which gives booster doses only to senior citizens and ICPs.

“Let’s not rush. The (priority) of the HTAC and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is the safety of the vaccines, regardless if they are primary series, first booster or second booster,” he said.

Private sector acknowledged

Meanwhile, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. has acknowledged the significant contribution of the private sector in the government’s fight against COVID-19.

Galvez cited, among others, the establishment of the PCR testing laboratories, which increased the nation’s testing capacity from only 1,000 tests per day to 76,000 tests daily.

He said that because of these accomplishments, the AC health of Ayala Co. won the COVID management initiative of the Year-Philippine award given by Healthcare Asia.

“The contribution of the private sector has been recognized by the international community that the Philippines is one of its kind, that the private sector and the government are working together and mobilizing its resources in order to have a very relevant and effective response,” Galvez added.

He also expressed his gratitude to the private sector for working hand-in-hand with the government in ensuring the successful implementation of the national vaccination program.

He underscored that the private sector has helped increase the nation’s testing capacity from only one PCR testing laboratory to 334 operational testing laboratories nationwide.

“The country now has 155 government and 179 private testing laboratories,” Galvez said.

He added that three million personal protective equipment sets were also procured with the help of the private sector and isolation facilities or the temporary treatment and monitoring facilities were constructed. - Jose Rodel Clapano


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