MANILA — Despite its continued global health emergency status, COVID-19 cases and deaths have declined, according to data from the World Health Organization.
Based on its latest epidemiological report, nearly 5.3 million new cases and over 48,000 deaths were reported from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19, a decrease of 89 percent and 62 percent, respectively, from the previous month's.
The decrease in cases have been observed across all WHO Regions, while all but the Eastern Mediterranean Region (+18%) have also recorded a decline in fatalities.
The Western Pacific Region, to which the Philippines belongs, saw a 94 percent decrease in reported cases and a 77 percent decrease in deaths.
But the world body attributes the decline to the reduction in testing and reporting delays around the world.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus on late Wednesday night (Manila time) appealed to countries to "maintain and strengthen surveillance and sequencing so that as the virus evolves, vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics can be evaluated and updated quickly as needed."
“This week, WHO’s Technical Advisory Group for COVID-19 Vaccine Composition emphasized the need for continued surveillance to guide the composition of vaccines, and to assess their effectiveness,” he said in a press briefing.
While a lot of countries, including the Philippines, have already lifted the mandatory use of face masks in most spaces, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Technical Lead for COVID-19, said it remains to be part of the comprehensive strategy to reduce transmission rates.
"I reiterate that the use of masks continue to be part of our strategy to reduce the spread," she said.
"We have a strategy that is based on vaccinations, on distancing as far as reasonable, wearing of well-fitting masks when we’re around others particularly in public transportation and certainly among health workers."
The Department of Health, in an earlier statement, said that while an Executive Order easing mask mandates had been issued by the Office of the President in late 2022, settings like health facilities and public transportation for land, sea and air still require the use of face masks.
"The Department of Health continues to reiterate the importance of self-assessing our risks – knowing when to wear our masks and observing our implemented health protocols. Through vaccination and these safety precautions, we have kept the pandemic and cases manageable in the country," the statement read.