Falling Covid-19 cases no reason to relax protocols in the Philippines: Expert

August 30, 2022

Manila, Philippines – The declining number of COVID-19 cases in the country is no reason to relax health protocols as infections with Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant continue to be reported, said Monday an expert in infectious diseases.

“What we see here is that there is a downtrend from last week. But if you notice the downtrend is so slow. So what does that indicate This indicates that there is still ongoing community transmission,” Dr Rontgene Solante said during Monday’s Laging Handa briefing.

He also said “we can’t really say we’re gone because we can already relax our health protocols.”

Solante said recent findings of 139 cases of the BA.5 subvariant out of 147 cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant may reverse the downward trend.

“BA.5 has been with us for almost four to six weeks now in the Philippines, and it is the dominant variant globally. Most countries report this, with 70-75% of their cases positive. And that is expected in BA.5 because it is the most evasive sub-variant of the Omicron, especially for those who have been vaccinated,” he said.

He stressed that being vaccinated was not enough protection against catching the more transmissible Omicron subvariants, so it is still “very important” to comply with health protocols.

DOH projection
Solante also noted that the Department of Health’s (DOH) projection of as many as 9,000 daily cases by the end of September could not be ruled out, given the return of students to campuses with the new school year.

“Yes, I totally agree with that. [projection]. Because we can see that with this BA.5, [our COVID-19 cases] take a long time to decrease. There is therefore also a possibility that [the case count] will increase again, especially as mobility increases and there are more different forms of gathering,” he said.

The BA.5 subvariant has other more transmissible “offspring” such as BA.5.1 and BA.5.2, Solante pointed out.

Its mutations indicate that the “Omicron” variant will be around for a longer period of time since most [us] are vulnerable,” he added.

But 90% of BA.5 cases are mostly mild, especially among younger populations, Solante said.

“However, we cannot say this for the elderly and the immunocompromised because these are the people [who are] very vulnerable,” he added.

He cited the latest statistics from the World Health Organization which showed the Philippines had the most deaths from COVID-19 after Japan and Australia, with many deaths among vulnerable populations of the elderly and people with comorbidities.

Rising coronavirus cases may lead to increased hospitalizations particularly involving these high-risk groups, Solante said, as he urged people to get more boosters.

Deaths on the rise
Daily COVID-19 cases declined for the second straight week while deaths continued to rise, the DOH reported Monday.

Over the past week, the average daily number of new cases detected fell to 2,752, down 19% from the 3,412 average daily cases the previous week.

The DOH said 110 of the 19,262 cases detected last week were critically or critically ill.

The department also reported that 316 more people died from COVID-19, but that figure was slightly lower than the 321 deaths reported last week, which was the highest weekly death toll in four months.

The DOH said 113 additional deaths occurred in August, while the rest occurred from July of this year to June of last year.

This brought the official death toll from COVID-19 to 61,667 out of 3.87 million confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, hospital bed occupancy has improved further.

The DOH said 24.9% of COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) beds are in use, up from 27% last week.

Compared to 30.2% last week, 28.1% of non-ICU beds are currently occupied.

Pandemic monitoring group OCTA Research said that if reproduction and positivity rates continue to decline, “current trends predict less than 1,000 new cases per day in mid-September and 500 per day in late September. ”, although this contradicts the projections of the DOH.


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