July surge seen as last but deadlier strains up

OCTA Research Group senior fellow Dr. Guido David said on Saturday that the July surge in Covid-19 cases might be the last that country will experience though the emergence of more vicious variants is still a threat.

“Even if we are optimistic, we keep that at the back of our minds that at least, if that happens, we should be ready para mabilis na 'yun response natin 'di tulad ng 2020 (our response would be faster unlike in 2020),” David told The Manila Times.

The Philippines, in the past few weeks, was grappling with a “weak” surge attributed to the presence of the highly-infectious subvariants of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, increased crowd mobility and waning vaccine immunity.

On Friday, the Department of Health (DoH) reported a 53-percent increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, with 88 percent of provinces and independent cities reporting an increased growth rate.

The country has posted an average of 914 cases per day from June 25 to July 1, compared to the 599 cases per day recorded on June 18 to 24.

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David said the numbers will reach their peak within the next two weeks, with an estimate of 2,000 to 3,000 cases per day across the country.

Besides the National Capital Region, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and the Western Visayas regions, David predicted an increase in the number of cases in the Cordillera and Central Luzon.

He noted that despite the increase in the number of cases, health care utilization rate remained low at around 21 percent, an indication that most of the cases were mild and just being treated at home.

David said future onslaught of the virus would not be strong enough to cripple the health system.

Although President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has yet to appoint a new Health secretary, David is confident that the DoH is capable of sustaining the country's pandemic response.

“We will be able to manage but I can't be able to say that we are concerned because we need someone to steer us in the right direction and the head of the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) has been piloting our pandemic response,” he said.

David added that the newly formed Advisory Council of Experts (ACE) is in the position to advise the President on the country's post-pandemic direction.

The ACE, organized by Go Negosyo founder Jose Maria Concepcion 3rd, includes infectious disease experts, microbiologists, hospital experts and economists in its membership.

OCTA is a member of the ACE.

Ventilation is a potent weapon against Covid

The world is still not using one of its most effective weapons against Covid — properly ventilating public spaces — more than two years into the pandemic, experts warn.

At the moment there is a “fragile, armed peace” with Covid-19, said Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva.

“In the hopes of stemming the tide of the pandemic and reducing mortality, we need to reduce the level of contamination, which the vaccine cannot do alone,” he told Agence France-Presse.

“We need a new phase — improving the quality of indoor air.”

Covid-19 is primarily transmitted through the air. It is carried in large droplets or fine aerosols when an infected person breathes — and even more so when they talk, sing or shout.

In a closed off or poorly ventilated room, these aerosols can remain in the air for some time, moving around the space and greatly increasing the risk of infection.

While it is generally accepted that Covid can be transmitted within 2 meters (6.5 feet) via both droplets and aerosols, there is still no consensus on the importance of long-distance airborne transmission indoors.

A team of researchers from the UK Health Security Agency and the University of Bristol reviewed 18 studies in several countries on airborne transmission.

In research published in the British Medical Journal this week, they found that people can infect each other when they are more than 2 meters apart.

We know one thing for sure: if you open a window, or well-ventilate a space, the virus-carrying aerosols dissipate like smoke.

But experts say that nowhere near enough is being done to ventilate public and private spaces across the world.

“On the whole, this is an issue that governments have not yet taken up,” Flahault said.

He called for massively increased funding to ventilate many public spaces, starting with schools, hospitals, public transport, offices, bars and restaurants.

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