Benign Covid-19 scenario gives hope for recovery and renewal

Published April 2, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The Covid-19 outlook for the country continues to improve significantly.

For the period April 1 to 15 including the Holy Week observance, Metro Manila and 198 other areas nationwide have been placed under the least restrictive Alert Level 1. This is more than four times greater than the 48 areas covered by Alert Level 1.
The prevailing situation coincides with the “most likely” of three scenarios laid out by the World Health

Organization (WHO), that is: “The virus continues to evolve, but the severity of disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection.”
This was part of the WHO’s updated Covid-19 Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan released last week, that also projected the best-case scenario: “Less severe variants (will) emerge, and boosters or new formulations of vaccines won’t be necessary.”

There is still a third, worst case scenario that is most concerning: “A more virulent and highly transmissible variant emerges. Against this new threat, people’s protection against severe disease and death, either from prior vaccination or infection, will wane rapidly.”

According to the latest Department of Health Covid-19 tracker dated Mar. 28, 2022, the average nationwide daily case count at 389 was 24 percent lower than that of the preceding week. Only 758 or 11.9 percent of hospital admissions were regarded as “critical.” Hospital bed utilization stayed at low levels: 15.1 percent of ICU beds and 16.7 of non-ICU beds.

On the vaccination front, only 65,640,834 or 72.93 percent of the target population have been vaccinated. Target population pertains to 80 percent of the total population or 90,005,357 individuals. Among those that have been fully vaccinated, only 11,825,403 have received booster or additional doses. Hence, only 18 percent or less than one out of every five fully vaccinated persons have been boosted.
The vaccination rate among senior citizens is still significantly lower than target. Only 75.56 percent of 8,721,357 senior citizens have been vaccinated; 2,128,011 still need to be vaccinated.

The low rate of boosting has prompted Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose ‘Joey’ Concepcion III to recommend a more vigorous campaign to bridge the large shortfall. Instead of vaccination cards, he recommends that booster cards be used starting June for enabling mobility of vaccinated individuals.
He said: “We need this push. Right now, there is no danger. The danger is in the next semester when the waning immunity might be felt already.” He echoed the WHO’s projection that new variants might emerge, including more virulent ones like the deadly Delta variant.

The current scenario raises guarded optimism among a citizenry that is also gearing to elect a new set of leaders in the May 9 elections. For the first time in three years, the faithful will be able to participate in person at Holy Week rituals, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. With nearly unrestricted mobility, travel from Metro Manila to the provinces will enable tens of thousands to be reunited with kith and kin.
By continuing to observe health and safety protocols, Filipinos could reasonably look forward to a summer of recovery and renewal.