The Department of Health (DOH) said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has yet to reach the endemic stage at this point in time.
“For now, we cannot say that it is really at that state where we have this endemic,” said DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a press briefing on Friday, Feb. 11.
In epidemiological terms, Vergeire said that endemic means it is a “shift from view as a one-time threat to a prevailing problem that should be addressed holistically.” Also, this means “society-wide acceptable disease burden.”
The DOH spokesperson said that an endemic state does not mean we do not need national government actions and interventions and removing all COVID-19 safeguards. This also “does not mean that the virus is safe or less virulent, or that there will be no disruptive waves or outbreak.”
“Endemic state pag pinag usapan ang definition niyan in epidemiological terms, makikita natin ang cases would be stable, they are predictable already, yung constant presence ng virus nandyan na (When we discuss the definition of endemic state in epidemiological terms, it means we can see that the cases would be stable, they are predictable already, and the constant presence of the virus is already there),” said Vergeire.
“Ngayon, pag tiningnan natin ang ating estado sa ngayon, hindi pa ho natin nakikita iyan (In our current state, we don’t see that yet),” she added.
“Yes, we are recognizing that fact na tumaas, napababa natin pero nothing is certain at this point. Hindi po natin alam kung kailan magkakaroon ulit ng pagtaas uli ng kaso. Hindi pa rin po natin alam kung may bagong variant na dadating, kung mas transmissible ba ito o mas makakapag produce ba ng severe na disease o hindi (Yes, we are recognizing the fact that the number of cases had increased but we managed to bring this down, but nothing is certain at this point. We do not know when there will be another increase in cases. We still don’t know if a new variant will emerge— if it is more transmissible or if it can cause more severe disease or not),” she furthered.
DOH-Technical Advisory Group (TAG) member Dr. Edsel Salvana that the World Health Organization (WHO) will be the one to announce whether the COVID-19 pandemic will now shift to an endemic state.
“There will be a formal declaration to the end of the pandemic. Usually, ang WHO ang gumagawa niyan (WHO does that),” he said during the same briefing.
Preparing for the ‘new normal’
‘The Philippines is now preparing in case the COVID-19 pandemic will shift to an endemic state and that all areas in the country would be placed under Alert Level 1.
Under the new normal setup, Vergeire said “restrictions will be very specific” or will only be imposed in areas with a high number of infections. Capacity limit protocols in outdoor and indoor establishments as well as transportation will be lifted.
“Naghahanda tayo para dito sa sinasabi nating new normal. Atin pong tandaan, ang sabi natin, ang Alert Level 1, ito po yung new normal natin dito po sa ating bansa (We are preparing for what we call the new normal. The Alert Level 1, this is the new normal here in our country),” she said.
“But what would be retained would be our self-regulation.We still follow the minimum public health standard, we still do masking, we still do hugas, iwas sa matataong lugar (avoid crowded places), physical distancing, and most importantly, of course, ventilation, air flow,” she added.
Vergeire believes that the policy on mask wearing will be the last one to be lifted.
“Kung magkakaroon man tayo ng pag transition (If we will have a transition) and easing of restrictions, I think the mask mandate will be the last to go because it will protect each and everyone of us—not just for COVID -19 but for the other respiratory infections also,” she said.