Last week, the Philippines’ coronavirus scoreboard hit the half-million mark. Based on the latest tally from the Department of Health (DOH), the number of confirmed cases has reached 500,577 with more than 24,000 still active, almost 466,000 recoveries, and nearly 10,000 deaths.
The DOH and the Philippine Genome Center also confirmed that the United Kingdom (UK) variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is now in the country after samples from a Filipino who arrived from Dubai two weeks ago yielded positive genome sequencing results. This UK variant is reportedly even more infectious than the original virus and is different from the mutation detected in South Africa.
Meanwhile there’s a mad scramble for anti-COVID-19 vaccines among the world’s 196 nations. Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Steven Cochrane said the Philippines lags behind in the vaccine procurement process whereas other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have already secured vaccines from major manufacturers. Our earliest delivery will be next month and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque admonished Filipinos not to be choosy when it comes to the vaccine brand we’ll be receiving from the government.
Moody’s Investor Service’s research arm also predicted that the Philippines will be the last country in the region to fully recover from the pandemic-induced economic recession. It attributes the slow recovery to uncertain fiscal support from policymakers despite ours being the hardest-hit economy with the longest lockdowns and the strictest quarantine protocols in this part of the world.
On the other hand, neighboring Vietnam and Taiwan have already rebounded and are on track towards economic expansion this year. South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and Thailand are expected to complete their recovery by mid-2021 while India and the Philippines are seen to fully recover their lost GDP output only by the first and fourth quarters of 2022, respectively.
Amidst the dismal performance, the DOH has not acted on the findings of several studies conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) last year regarding the efficacy of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as a supplement for coronavirus-afflicted patients.
Funded by the DOST together with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), the research led by Dr. Toby Dayrit of the Ateneo de Manila University investigated if VCO compounds are effective antiviral agents to prevent or reduce COVID-19. According to PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya, the results were “very promising as not only does it show that VCO, by itself, can destroy the virus, but is also has a key mechanism in up-regulating the immune response against COVID-19.”
Due to the lack of available vaccines, the DOST sought to intensify the search for alternative solutions to the increasing cases of COVID-19 by supporting its Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) in exploring VCO capabilities. Last December, results of FNRI’s community-based study titled “Effects of VCO among Suspect and Probable Cases of COVID-19” showed that VCO could prevent the progression or severity of the disease.
These results were corroborated by another study conducted by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) under Dr. Dayrit and Dr. Jose Ray Mondejar among inmates and jail guards of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center. This was during the time when Cebu City was experiencing a high number of cases in the middle of 2020.
In their presentation on the potential of VCO as an antiviral and immuno-modulatory agent against COVID-19, the two doctors disclosed that all those who tested positive for a mild strain of SARS-COV-2 had subsequently tested negative after they regularly took tablespoons of VCO and underwent other treatment protocols such as steam inhalation and turmeric juice.
Dr. Ed Lalusis, a general surgeon who invented and patented the Growrich VCO capsules, cited the DOST and NAST studies when he urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to include the promotion of VCO as a preventive therapy. The IATF is the government body leading the country’s pandemic response.
Growrich VCO hard-gel capsules are made by Dr. Lalusis’ company called Growrich Manufacturing Inc. and approved as food supplements by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Originally based in the coconut-producing province of Quezon, Growrich transferred its plant to Caloocan City and has become a toll manufacturer catering to the food and pharmaceutical industries. Its other FDA-certified products include vitamins and herbal dietary supplements.
DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara agreed with Dr. Dayrit’s recommendation that further studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of VCO as an adjunct therapy for COVID-19 patients with other co-morbidities. Dr. Dayrit, who also serves concurrently as NAST Vice President, said the favorable outcomes could be the basis for controlled clinical trials with more subjects. After all, Dr. Mondejar stressed that those who were given VCO in the Cebu facility seemed to develop immunity from COVID-19 in spite of the coronavirus’ presence in the immediate environment.