Citizens’ discipline enhances effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigation measures

Published December 31, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


Explore all possible options to safely mitigate the effects of more transmissible variants of COVID-19.

Thus did Health Secretary Francisco Duque III frame the current strategy of the government in the continuing efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Three important measures were announced. First, the waiting time for COVID-19 booster shots has been shortened such that these may already be given to adults at least three months after the second dose; recipients of single-dose vaccines can get booster doses after two months. Second, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency authorization to the vaccination of children from 5 to 11 years old. Third, the FDA also approved the emergency use of an anti-COVID pill molnupiravir.

Post-Christmas day figures indicate that the vital indicators on the state of COVID-19 transmission seem to be creeping up: higher number of cases, increasing positivity rate and an uptrend in average daily attack rate.

These developed after a robust mid-December assessment by OCTA Research noting that the Philippines “has achieved a substantial population immunity against COVID-19 as infections and hospitalization numbers drop despite the higher mobility and the easing of movement restrictions.” As the fourth Omicron case in the country was reported in the country — and as more returning travelers could likely be carriers, too — it is reasonable to expect that “the possibility of community transmission becomes greater and greater.” This is tempered by the emergent profile of Omicron infections as being less severe even if these may be more transmissible.

Given the latest developments, it is likely that the government will maintain the current Alert Level 2 nationwide in order to ensure that adequate safeguards are still in place to cope with possible increases in infection rates.

The National Task Force Against COVID-19 has reported the following vaccine update as of December 26: Out of the 200,885,005 doses that have arrived in the country, a total of 139,376,450 doses have been deployed; 105,355,629 doses have been administered.

Despite being disrupted by the highly destructive typhoon Odette (international name: Rai), the second phase of the national vaccination drive achieved 102.34 percent of its target with more than 7 million more jabs being administered nationwide. This mirrored the favorable outcome of the first phase held before Christmas. The total number of fully vaccinated Filipinos stands at 47.1 million, or 61.1 percent — short of the 70 percent target of 54 million by end-2021.

The year-end position of the country in terms of COVID-19 containment gives Filipinos sufficient reason to be optimistic. Despite the continuing threats posed by Omicron and other possible mutations, the Filipinos’ commendable sense of discipline in terms of observing the health and safety protocols of masking, physical distancing and frequent hand washing has greatly reduced COVID incidence.

If this were sustained further, the prospects for faster economic recovery would be enhanced significantly.