The World Health Organization (WHO) encouraged the Philippines to further effectively communicate with its people on the importance of observing the basic health precautions; and continue to improve its healthcare capacity in fighting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai emphasized the importance of practicing the basic health precautions as the Philippine government eased the quarantine restrictions in many areas.
“Very important for the government to continue to communicate with the people —encourage them to maintain their healthy behavior. The government yesterday eased the level of movement control,” said Kasai in an online briefing on Tuesday, August 18.
“It is very important for everybody to voluntarily do very similar things so that we can continue to suppress that level and not to overwhelm the healthcare facilities in this country,” he added.
Kasai said that they observed that the quarantine restrictions has affected the Philippine economy.
“I’ve been observing this virus and these interventions making a significant economic impact and it affects the people’s lives, particularly those in poor settings–families and individuals. And I’ve heard people are saying ‘that we need to go out for work’— I totally understand that,” said Kasai.
The Philippines ranked first with the most number of COVID-19 cases in the Western Pacific region, based on the WHO COVID situation report as of August 16.
“I think how much the Philippines’ cases account for in the Western Pacific is not important. Philippines is a country who introduced a lockdown in the earliest stage of this pandemic. I’m sure it prevented a significant number of infections and, hence, the number of people dying from COVID, and it prevented the healthcare facilities to be overwhelmed,” said Kasai.
Kasai said that they are observing that the Philippines is upgrading its health services such as increasing the number of healthcare facilities, number of beds, and also establishing “intermediate facilities.”
“I think it is very important for the government to continue to improve this capacity,” said Kasai.
“Philippine government has been putting a lot of effort into continuously improving their capacity,” he added.
Continue to improve response, vaccine reliance
Kasai said that countries should “continue to refine, learn and adjust our response in pursuit of the new normal.”
“Some of these refinements include greater targeting and earlier introduction of localized movement control measures and public health interventions. Approaches like this are more effective and minimize social disruption and impact on economies,” said Kasai.
“COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. We know it’s a long and difficult stretch, and we will face setbacks. But we must keep trying, learning and doing it together. How we fare is up to each and every one of us. If we make the right choices every day, we will come out of this as safe and as strong as possible,” he added.
Kasai said that countries should not just rely on the development of vaccines for COVID-19.
“When we talk about vaccines, my position is on one hand, very optimistic but one one hand, very cautious. Optimistic because I’ve been so impressed by the speed of development. But I’m also cautious because even if it can be developed safe and effective, production capacity will not really meet the demands coming from the entire world,” said Kasai.
“I think what is important is we continue to improve our response and not just hope for the vaccine,” he noted.