EDITORIAL - COVID on the rise again

The Philippine Star

In this year of recovery from the pandemic, the third quarter closed with hospital admissions for severe and critical COVID-19 cases on the rise and the risk classification for Metro Manila elevated from low to moderate. The number of COVID tests producing positive results are also rising.

Department of Education officials, for their part, confirmed that COVID infections are increasingly being reported among learners, educators and non-teaching personnel in public schools. The DepEd has yet to provide the precise numbers, which it is collating from local government units and the Department of Health.

DOH officials reported that the increases in COVID hospital admissions, which have surpassed the highest recorded in August, were reported in the cities of Caloocan, Makati, Malabon, Muntinlupa, Navotas and Pasig. With 13 of the 17 component areas in the National Capital Region registering more COVID infections, the DOH has placed the entire NCR under moderate risk classification from the previous low.

Even the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines has asked the government to bring back the mask mandate outdoors amid a reported increase of 22 percent in COVID cases over the past week. DOH officials, however, said their assessment showed there was no need at this time to restore the outdoor mask mandate.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante recently warned that an even more transmissible subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus strain has entered the country. The unvaccinated as well as vulnerable sectors such as the immune compromised and those with comorbidities are the most at risk of serious infection.

Solante and other experts continue to warn that COVID-19 continues to kill, especially among the vulnerable sectors. They also warn that even mild or asymptomatic breakthrough infections can lead to long COVID – a phenomenon that is increasingly being reported worldwide, and for which treatment is still uncertain. The symptoms of long COVID include chronic fatigue, dry cough and brain fog. These can cause long-term impairment of regular functions, which in some documented cases have forced people to stop working.

While outdoor masking and distancing rules have been significantly eased in the past months, health experts continue to encourage people to keep their masks on, maintain a healthy distance from others and sustain hand and respiratory hygiene. Most important of all, people are being urged to get fully vaccinated and boosted. The vaccines are available for free, but uptake continues to be lackluster. With COVID risks rising, local government units should intensify efforts to push people to get their vaccines and booster shots.

At the same time, the government should speed up efforts to obtain the next-generation bivalent vaccines that target both the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Omicron subvariant. The world must live with COVID-19, but it must be done as safely as possible. All precautions must be in place, especially with full in-person classes set by next month.


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