Expert cites health protocols, vaccination as keys to curb COVID-19 cases

Published May 6, 2021, 3:39 PM

by Analou de Vera

Strict adherence to the minimum public health standards and the implementation of coronavirus vaccination are the main keys to lower the number of COVID-19 cases, an infectious disease expert said on Thursday, May 6.

A law enforcement officer reminds passengers to observe health protocols outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 in Paranaque City on May 6, 2021. (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

The two measures have helped other countries to decrease their COVID-19 infections, said Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of San Lazaro Hospital’s Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine.

“We have to learn our lesson from other countries. How they were able to revert back to what we call low number of cases: number 1— it is a really strict implementation of the health protocols,” Solante said in an online forum.

“Pag nagsusuot ka ng mask at face shield, avoiding crowded places, maganda ang ventilation, maski variant pa iyan— That is the best protection that we have (When you wear a mask and face shield, avoiding crowded places, good ventilation, even if it’s a variant — That is the best protection that we have),” he added.

Vaccination also is one of the important tools to curb the COVID-19 transmission.

“Kailangan natin ng bakuna because the more we gradually introduce the vaccine, you have more people developing the antibody, then less na ang transmission,” said Solante.

Solante said that the efficacy of vaccines may reduce due to the emergence of new coronavirus variants but it does not mean that they are not effective anymore.

“Pag bumababa ang efficacy, it does not mean na hindi na gumagana (When the efficacy decreases, it does not mean that it no longer works)…The message here is that we have to trust vaccines because vaccines are still effective even with these new variants,” he said.

Genomic surveillance

Meanwhile, Solante also emphasized the importance of strengthening the genomic surveillance to determine the extent of the presence of the new coronavirus variants in the country.

The Department of Health (DOH) said that 7,167 swab samples underwent genomic sequencing from Jan. 4, 2021 to May 2, 2021

“This is just my thought.. Our sampling is really very low. The Philippine Genome Center should look for more collaboration with other laboratories. Train more laboratories to do the sequencing, kasi sa tingin ko mukhang overwhelmed din ang agency na iyan (because I think that agency is also already overwhelmed),” he said.

Solante said it would take some time for the country to determine if the variants of concern are already dominant in the communities.

“Since these are only representative samples… it will just tell you that it is present in NCR (National Capital Region) but does not necessarily mean it is the dominant or is causing the community transmission,” he said.

”Sa UK (United Kingdom), it took them like sampling 10 percent of the total population – doon palang sila nag-declare ng community transmission…,” he added.

“To confirm that there is community transmission, the samples should be high enough and wide enough. Talagang kulang pa tayo sa data na iyon (We still lack that kind of data). Since we practiced evidence-based, we need to get those data so that we have a better idea and have a more objective way of telling the people,” Solante furthered.