The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed alarm on Wednesday, April 7, over the continuing surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines.
WHO Western Pacific Region Director Dr. Takeshi Kasai said that they are “concerned” about the current capacity of the country’s healthcare system.
“We are concerned about the situation in the Philippines. We are concerned because the surge is really continuing and moving towards the so-called red line – the number of cases exceeds the capacity of healthcare,” said Kasai in a virtual press briefing.
“We know that once we cross that red line–we put healthcare workers in a very difficult situation. Once the healthcare workers start to get infections, the healthcare capacity goes down and ironically, that is the time more and more people need some help,” he added.
Kasai said that it is important for the Philippines to “avoid crossing this red line.”
“We are also concerned because there are people who are really having a difficult time. I know there are people who lost their jobs, and I know that students were not able to go to school for quite some time,” he said.
Among the factors that may have contributed to the rise in cases include – the presence of new coronavirus variants, lack of compliance to non-pharmaceutical interventions, increased mobility or gathering, and vaccine optimism, said Kasai.
“Behind this surge there are multiple factors that may be contributing as many other countries are now experiencing the surge,” he said.
Kasai encouraged countries in the Western Pacific Region, where the Philippines is included, to set up more facilities for mild and moderate COVID-19 cases.
“We really encourage governments to continue to improve healthcare capacity including setting up intermediate facilities to accommodate mild and moderate cases. So that ICU (intensive care units) or beds that are used to provide services to the severe cases can be secured for those people. We (also) continue to encourage countries to strengthen contact tracing so that they can know where infections are occurring and they can think how effectively we can suppress those infections,” he said.
Kasai also encouraged governments to further strengthen their monitoring and surveillance of the different variants of concern.
He also reminded the different countries to effectively use the vaccines but noted “vaccines alone cannot control the COVID-19.”
It is also very important for every individual to practice basic prevention measures – not just to protect themselves but also to protect their families and communities, said Kasai.
“Obviously, this is a virus transmitted from human to human and we really wanted to encourage every individual to keep practicing the minimum preventive measures such as washing hands, wearing masks, physical distancing, and in case if you have some symptoms, [seek] local authorities’ guidance. These measures are effective even to the variants of concern,” said Kasai.