An official of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the easing of quarantine measures must be done in a “very targeted” manner.
“We still need to be conscious of the fact that there’s a relatively high level of transmission in the community,” WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe said during the Laging Handa public briefing Thursday, Feb. 18.
Abeyasinghe added that this situation is complicated by the presence of new variants. “So, I believe there’s still a need to maintain these restrictions – that does not mean that we cannot loosen up in key areas where the economy will benefit, but that has to be done in a very targeted manner,” he added.
He said the country might experience a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases if it will go for large-scale relaxation of measures.
“If we now go for large-scale relaxation of measures given the current existing situation and the circulation of variants, and the fact there’s still many months before a large proportion of Filipinos are vaccinated, we may witness a situation where there’ll be an upsurge of cases,” said Abeyasinghe.
He said careful balancing of the situation is necessary.
“We understand there are significant economic burdens on sectors of the population and there is an urge to relax but as we have been saying right from the beginning, every measure needs to be carefully calibrated and decided upon before being implemented,” Abeyasinghe explained.
Meanwhile, the WHO official was also asked regarding the first batch of the 117,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX Facility that are expected to arrive in the country this month.
“Unfortunately, we are still waiting for an indemnification agreement coming from the manufacturer. In this case, it’s Pfizer-BioNTech,” Abeyasinghe said.
“Until it is sent by the company and signed by the Philippine government, that is the last step that is now waiting to be accomplished,” he added.
“Upon completion of that, only then they will schedule the shipment. Last evening, I was made to understand that this may happen within the next 2 weeks,” Abeyasinghe added.
The arrival of the vaccine suffered a delay after vaccine manufacturers sought an indemnification agreement from the recipient countries.