Household transmission 'major fuel' in COVID-19 surge: ex-health chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2021 09:33 AM | Updated as of Mar 22 2021 09:57 AM

Household transmission 'major fuel' in COVID-19 surge: ex-health chief 1
People visit Divisoria market in Manila on March 9, 2021 Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Household transmission is driving the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country, a former health secretary said Monday, as coronavirus infections topped 663,000 after a year into the pandemic.

"Right now, the major fuel of this surge is really household transmission. Instead of only 1 or 2 persons in the household getting COVID-19 as we've seen in the past year, it's now the entire household, like 10 or 12 people testing positive all the same time," Dr. Paulyn Ubial told ANC.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the capital region and its neighboring provinces under general community quarantine for 2 weeks amid spike in virus cases.

Wearing of mask for the elderly and the vulnerable and for the rest of the household is strongly advised.

With the lack of anti-coronavirus jabs, she called for massive testing to quash fresh coronavirus cases.

"If we will rely on vaccination, I don't think that will be forthcoming because really there's a global shortage. So, the best way to look at this is still to test massively. We do household per household. No longer individuals," Ubial said.

The Philippines launched its vaccination drive on March 1 and has so far inoculated over 293,000.

Ubial, who leads the molecular laboratory at the Philippine Red Cross, also noted that the public and government became complacent in fight against COVID-19.

For her, the public became weary of the pandemic due to lengthy restrictions on movement.

"People are really still being complacent. They are no longer afraid to go out and mingle," she said.

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Some people, Ubial said, were also in denial if they tested positive for the virus.

"We've heard stories like that they wanted a repeat of the testing. They don't believe they are positive because they're asymptomatic. It can't be true. Maybe there's a problem in the laboratory. So, there's a lot of, shall we say, denial. How can I be affected by COVID-19 when I'm doing all the minimum health protocols?" she said.

Ubial said the government also became complacent after battling the virus for over a year. 

She lamented the frequent policy changes by health authorities without reportedly vetting the process to the private sector.

"Like the one-stop-shop in the airport, we used to meet every week. Now it's once a month or every 2 weeks. Also, they changed the policy from testing at the airport to testing in the hotel. Now, there's a lot of operational issues," she said.

Ubial said testing was taking a longer time and overseas Filipino workers were staying for more days in quarantine facilities.

"It's really a nightmare right now what they did with the policy of testing in the quarantine hotels," she said.

On Saturday, the Philippines logged 7,999 coronavirus cases, its highest daily tally of infections since the pandemic began. More than 577,000 have recovered from the disease while nearly 13,000 have died. Active cases stood at 73,000.