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COVID Under Control? Not Yet, Says DOH

COVID Under Control? Not Yet, Says DOH
Wearing face masks, children take a groufie as they stroll at Roces Circle in Quezon City on Nov. 23, 2021 amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Miguel de Guzman, The Philippine STAR

Despite the continuing decline in cases, the Department of Health (DOH) is not about to declare the COVID-19 pandemic in the country under control.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reported on Thursday, Nov. 25, that the DOH is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning the pandemic containment process.

“We are not going to declare this soon, we are just coordinating with WHO on the process and determinants of the disease control or containment,” Vergeire said, noting that a longer time is needed to evaluate the situation before the pandemic can be declared under control.

“We have to consider various settings, different situations. The vaccination rate in NCR (National Capital Region) may be high and there is intensified community response, but compared to other areas in the country, the inoculation rate still low,” she said in mixed English and Filipino.

She further noted that local government units (LGUs) in other areas in the country still need the support of the national government in their community response.

The health system must also be ready, Vergeire said, before the DOH can consider the pandemic in the country to be already contained.

In the same briefing, Vergeire clarified that there is no recorded increase in hospital admissions of severe and critical COVID.

DOH data showed a further decline in the average daily cases in the recent week. The nationwide risk classification remains low with a -49% two-week growth rate in recent weeks and a moderate average daily attack rate at 1.55 cases per 100,000 population.

The health official also encouraged the public to help control the spread of COVID by getting jabbed during the National Vaccination Days, a three-day inoculation drive that aims to vaccinate 15 million Filipinos.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the government continues to adopt policies and implement anti-COVID measures based on case trends and projections, available resources and evolving evidence.

Travel surge

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is expecting a surge of inbound travelers this holiday season with the looming reopening of the country as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) eases travel restrictions.

“We are expecting an increased number of travelers this holiday season. We’re expecting many OFWs and balikbayans who want to be with their families,” BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said, noting that returning overseas Filipinos usually come home to spend the holidays.

To meet the increase in travelers, Sandoval said frontline personnel are not allowed to file vacation leaves during the holiday season, while 99 more immigration officers will be deployed.

She said the bureau has also expanded operations, extended working hours and resumed e-gates to avoid any inconvenience.

Sandoval also emphasized that 2,337 or at least 75% of more than 3,000 BI employees have already gotten their full dose of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines while others are still waiting for their schedule or getting clearance for vaccination due to medical conditions. — With Robertzon Ramirez