Fewer hospitalizations and weaker omicron variants are just some of the reasons why the lifting of the public health emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic is possible within the year, a member of the government's vaccine expert panel said Friday.
Speaking to ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Dr. Rontgene Solante noted that most COVID-19 cases reported recently are mild, with COVID symptoms lasting for only 3-4 days. Most COVID -19 patients who are hospitalized are from the vulnerable population such as the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions.
"Hindi na sila ina-admit because of COVID pneumonia but due to co-morbidities such as stroke or inaatake sa puso or renal failure," he said.
The World Health Organization declared the then novel coronavirus outbreak as a public heath emergency of International concern on Jan. 30, 2020, and then as a pandemic on March 11 that year.
The respiratory disease is believed to have emerged in China in late 2019. As of Jan. 10 this year, there are 660,131,952 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,690,473 deaths, reported to the WHO.
The agency said that as of Dec. 21 last year, a total of 13,073,712,554 vaccine doses have been administered globally.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, said WHO sees the lifting this year of the declaration of the COVID-19 disease as a public health emergency. "I do think this is the year, the fourth year of this pandemic, where we can really end this as an emergency everywhere. We're on track for that," she said.
Health Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said that there remains a “small probability” that the state of calamity will be extended.
Solante, head of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine unit of the San Lazaro Hospital, said the declaration of a public health emergency in 2020 was necessary to prepare all nations against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Ang main objective is to lessen those who will die of the infection. Nangangapa pa tayo dahil di pa developed ang bakuna and our health care system is not really prepared for that," he said.
"Four years after, marami na tayong bakuna at marami nang nabakunahan and there are also very good and available vaccines. Secondly, meron na tayong mga gamot sa severe infection and the health care system is more prepared. I think there is more reason to lift the public health emergency," he added.
He noted that if the WHO lifts the declaration of a public health emergency the Philippines should still continue measures that led to the lifting including requiring the vulnerable population to wear masks in high-risk areas.
He also urged those who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to get one soon, saying there is still no schedule for the arrival of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines.
"Don't wait for the bivalent dahil walang kasiguraduhan kung kailan dadating. Monovalent is still a good vaccine especialy against severe infection," he said.