The Philippines should continue observing and monitoring the COVID-19 situation in China, according to an infectious disease expert on Friday.
At the Laging Handa public briefing, Dr. Rontgene Solante stressed its importance, considering that a possible widespread spike of Covid-19 cases in China may pose a “global implication.”
“Kung talagang mag-declare ang China na mayroon na silang (If China will declare that they have a) big wave of this Covid infection, then I think not only the Philippines shall face its implications. It will have a global implication also because China is a big country with a very big place in the economic arena,” he said.
As of Thursday, China has reported less than 4,000 new symptomatic Covid-19 cases nationwide.
Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concerns over the increasing number of severe Covid-19 cases in China.
“WHO is very concerned over the evolving situation in China with increasing reports of severe disease,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“If you look at the current subvariant or the variants of concern now being monitored in China, it’s the BF.7 which is a subvariant of BA.5. So these variants already pass through other countries, including the Philippines. It’s like, we already went through this kind of surge that they are now facing,” Solante said.
He said access to available bivalent vaccine is vital since, it has a “very good protection” against the Omicron variant.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has already detected four cases of the more transmissible BF.7 Omicron sub-lineage.
Moreover, Solante stressed the need to study the possible emergence of new variants in case a big wave of infection persists before imposing border restrictions.
“Titingnan muna natin kung ano talaga ang totoong situation sa China; hindi tayo padalus-dalos (We will first monitor the real situation in China, we will not be hasty) in terms of border control. Kailangan nating makita muna kung ano iyong extent nitong cases sa (We need to see the extent of cases in) China and the possibility also of a new variant that could possibly emerge,” he said.
Solante enumerated several reasons why China’s Covid-19 cases are increasing, which includes easing of measures following its zero-Covid policy, low population immunity, factors on Omicron subvariants and the use of vaccines with low efficacy, among others.
More stable situation
Covid-19 projections for the country, meanwhile, show that cases are less likely to exceed 5,000 after the holiday season.
Solante said the Philippines poses a more stable population immunity this season.
“I think we will not reach 25 or 30,000 [cases] which happened last January of this year because of [the] Omicron variant. If there will be [an] uptick of cases, I think this will not be more than 3,000 or 5,000. And this is something that, more or less, manageable and well –I don’t think we will be getting more than 5,000 cases after the holidays,” he said.
He noted that although there is a possibility of an uptick, the post-holiday situation may still be manageable.
“There’s a possibility that the cases will increase. But for me, I think our situation now is a bit more stable compared to previous months for reasons that our population immunity is higher, many were inoculated, many have received their booster doses,” he said.
“The way we handled 2022 was more than enough, that we were able to decrease our hospitalization rate; there’s a low number of severe cases, despite the fact that our boosted population is not that high,” he added.
Other common flu
Solante, meanwhile, reminded the public to undergo Covid-19 testing, especially for the vulnerable sector, since another common flu is being experienced with overlapping symptoms.
“All of these have overlapping symptoms, cough, sore throat, fever, body pains, headache. It’s important to, for instance, think of COVID, and let’s prioritize COVID testing,” he said.
In the end, he urged the public to maintain safety protocols amid the celebration of holidays.
“With this holiday, yes we can enjoy Christmas, but at the same time, we need to maintain our awareness regarding how to protect ourselves, especially with COVID that’s still here, influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and other respiratory tract infections, we need to protect ourselves,” he said.
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