PH ready should WHO lifts declaration of Covid-19 public health emergency of int’l concern— expert

Shoppers flock to bargain stores along Ilaya Street in Divisoria, Binondo, Manila, on Oct. 14, 2021. (Photo by Ali Vicoy)

A local health expert believes that the country is ready and prepared in case the World Health Organization (WHO) decides to already lift the public health emergency of international concern declaration for Covid-19.

The Philippines was able to manage the number of new cases even after the conduct of activities related to the holiday season, said infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante.

“I think the Philippines is ready by the time na tanggalin iyong public health emergency (that the public health emergency is removed),” said Solante during a public briefing on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

“Unang-una nakikita natin ngayon, if we lift the public health emergency, hindi na tayo nati-threaten ngayon sa mga kaso na marami. So, I think ang mga kaso natin for the past month, even after the holiday, iyong Christmas holiday, ang mga kaso natin nag-stabilize na to (First of all, if the public health emergency is lifted, we are currently no longer threatened by spikes in cases. Our cases for the past month, even after the Christmas holiday, already stabilized to) less than 1,000,” he added.

Solante also emphasized that several people already have protection through vaccination.

“I think na-attain na natin iyong pinakaimportante nating population immunity at this point in time, dahil marami ng nakatanggap ng primary vaccine series at marami na ring nagka-infection (we have also attained population immunity at this point in time, because many have already received the primary vaccine series and many have also been infected). So, we [have] that hybrid immunity,” he added.

However, Solante still emphasized the importance of using face masks even once the WHO lifts the Covid-19 public health emergency of international concern.

“Kung i-lift man ang public health emergency, it is because na manageable na iyong mga kaso, hindi na napupuno ang mga hospital at marami na ring nabakunahan. But nandito pa rin ang Covid sa community. So, paalaala lang na ang face mask is an important tool na hindi tayo magkakahawaan at hindi tayo makakuha ng infection (If the public health emergency is lifted, it is because the cases are manageable, hospitals are no longer full and many have been vaccinated. But Covid is still here in the community. So, just a reminder that the face mask is an important tool so that we don’t get infected and we don’t get an infection),” he said.

“Iyong (The) face mask will be an important tool for us as we move on with Covid-19. So ang mga tao ay ini-encourage pa rin na magsuot ng mask especially for those may mga exposure, doon sa mga high risk na mga population kagaya ng mga matanda at mga immunocompromised, at kung pupunta tayo sa mga lugar na matao at hindi maganda ang ventilation (people are still encouraged to wear masks especially for those with exposures, those considered high risk populations such as the elderly and immunocompromised, and if we go to crowded areas, and in poorly ventilated areas),” he added.

He also highlighted the importance of further promoting the Covid-19 vaccination.

Based on a Reuters’ report, officials of the WHO are set to discuss on Jan. 27 “whether the Covid-19 pandemic still represents a global emergency.”

To recall, the then novel coronavirus (now known as Covid-19) first spread in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and since then rapidly spread across the world. In January 2020, the WHO declared the virus outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern. The WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic in March 2020.

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