Is PH entering endemic phase? 'We still have to see,' says doctor

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2022 09:08 AM | Updated as of Feb 27 2022 09:37 AM

Students at the school grounds of the Far Eastern University in Manila on February 23, 2022. Face-to-face classes for 3rd to 5th-year students resumed February 14 as COVID-19 cases continue to decline and authorities mull over deescalating restrictions to Alert Level 1 this coming March. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Students at the school grounds of the Far Eastern University in Manila on February 23, 2022. Face-to-face classes for 3rd to 5th-year students resumed February 14 as COVID-19 cases continue to decline and authorities mull over deescalating restrictions to Alert Level 1 this coming March. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — The head of a doctors' group said Sunday it remains unclear whether the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines is already entering into an endemic stage.

"We do not know kasi we still have to see," Philippine College of Physicians President Dr. Maricar Limpin told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, when asked if the COVID-19 pandemic in the country had already started to shift to being endemic.

(We do not know because we still have to see.)

"Sa ibang bansa, nakikita naman natin na sa oras na niluwagan nila 'yong kanilang restrictions, dumadami pa rin ang kaso... Nakita naman din natin, marami-rami rin ang namamatay from COVID-19 cases," she added.

(In other countries, we see that the moment they relax virus restrictions, the number of cases still shoot up... We've also seen that many in other countries still die from COVID-19.)

Limpin said in an endemic phase, there should be fewer deaths despite continued COVID-19 infections.

She made the statement amid talks of placing Metro Manila and other parts of the country under Alert Level 1, the lowest in a 5-tier system that dictates COVID-19 restrictions.

Under Alert Level 1, all business establishments can operate at full capacity.

Limpin reiterated that the government should be cautious in relaxing restrictions.

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"Mas mabuti na 'yong mag-ingat tayo, maghinay-hinay tayo para masiguro nating tuloy-tuloy 'yong pag-open ng economy. Mahirap 'yong tumaas ulit 'yong kaso and then lockdown ulit tayo," she said.

(It's better for us to be careful so we can ensure that the economy can reopen continuously. It would be more difficult if the number of cases increase and we have to enforce lockdowns again.)

Limpin also called on candidates in the May 9 elections to present detailed plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We do not like to hear 'yong mga motherhood statement kasi kadalasan motherhood statement," she said.

(We do not like to hear motherhood statements becuase most of the time, they usually give motherhood statements.)

On Saturday, the Philippines reported 1,223 new COVID-19 cases, the 8th straight day that additional infections were fewer than 2,000.

OCTA Research Group fellow Guido David said the country may see less than 1,000 daily new cases next week.

David, in a separate TeleRadyo interview, said the number of reported deaths per day remained high but noted that there are backlogs in the health department's reporting.

"Hindi pa siya ganoon kababa as what we would hope, considering na a little over 1,000 na lang tayo per day," he said.

(It's not as low as what we would hope, considering that we still report a little over 1,000 new cases per day.)

Presidential Adviser on COVID-19 Response Vince Dizon earlier said the government was preparing for an endemic phase by drawing up a "pandemic exit plan."

The Philippines logged its first COVID-19 case on Jan. 30, 2020 in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged.

From the time it rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program on March 1, 2021, more than 62.6 million people in the country have been fully vaccinated while nearly 61.9 million others have received their first dose, data monitored by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed. More than 9.7 million booster shots have also been administered.