A possible surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country after the holiday revelries is inevitable, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Philippines said Tuesday.
During a televised briefing, WHO Representative Rabindra Abeyansinghe said that following the widespread non-compliance with physical distancing during the holidays and on the feast of the Black Nazarene, the country may see a rise in COVID-19 cases.
“We have seen during the holiday season that the physical distancing requirements have not been followed. There have been a lot of get together (gatherings) and recently the Traslacion (was held) with a massive get-together,” Abeyansinghe said.
“This kind of close contact will give rise to the transmission of virus for further infection of new people. So it is inevitable that the Philippines is going to see an increase of cases,” he added.
On Monday, more than 2,000 new confirmed cases of the disease were recorded, bringing the national count to 489,736.
It was the first time in three weeks that the cases breached 2,000.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, emphasized that they need another week to determine whether there was a rise in cases due to the holiday season.
Vergeire added that they will need three to four weeks more in order to conclude if the Traslacion had, indeed, led to a surge of cases, considering all factors, including the low turnout of data from laboratories.
Abeyansinghe said the key response to a possible surge of cases is early detection and isolation.
The WHO representative underscored that “early testing, early quarantining, early isolation, and information sharing” will be key so that the chain of transmission is interrupted.
He also noted that the country “has been gradually improving its capacity to respond to the pandemic as with many other countries.”
Hesitation over vaccines
Abeyansinghe also recognized that there has been hesitancy among Filipinos in getting vaccinated for the disease amid the government’s plan to roll out a nationwide vaccination program.
“We know that there is a vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines. We need to be clear and transparent with the Filipino public that these vaccines are not given market authorization because they are still under emergency use listing and that is why it is necessary for countries to have in place systems to monitor potential side effects,” Abeyansinghe said.
Vergeire, on the other, reiterated that all vaccines entering the country will have to be proven safe and effective first by the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines before these will be used.
“Lahat ng bakuna kapag puasok sa ating bansa sisiguraduhin ng FDA na ligas at effective. Any kind of vaccine, once granted emergency use authorization, will be on equal footing that it will be safe and effective,” Vergeire stressed.
The Health undersecretary also said that by the end of January, a specific priority list for the roll out of the vaccine program will be finalized.
She added that an established system will handle the master list to ensure that there will be no duplication or overlapping of vaccinees.