Possible rise in COVID cases expected 2 weeks after elections: expert

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2022 02:31 PM | Updated as of May 12 2022 12:41 PM

Voters affected by malfunctioning vote counting machines (VCMs) talk to an election officer at the Brgy. Teacher's Village East basketball court in Quezon City on May 9, 2022. They want to see their ballots processed with a replacement VCM since 2 out of of 3 machines malfunctioned in the polling place since the start of the voting period. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Voters affected by malfunctioning vote counting machines (VCMs) talk to an election officer at the Brgy. Teacher's Village East basketball court in Quezon City on May 9, 2022. They want to see their ballots processed with a replacement VCM since 2 out of of 3 machines malfunctioned in the polling place since the start of the voting period. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - A possible rise in COVID-19 cases is expected in 2 weeks following superspreader events due to the elections, an infectious disease specialist said Wednesday.

The incubation period is "usually an average of 3 to 5 days," according to Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of adult infectious diseases at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila and a member of the government's vaccine expert panel.

The public needs to remain vigilant against more transmissible omicron subvariants BA.4, BA.5, and BA.2.12.1 as these have caused surge in cases in the US and South Africa, Solante said. The dominant omicron variant in the Philippines is BA.2.

Last month, the country recorded its first case of the omicron BA.2.12 subvariant in a woman from Finland who has since recovered and returned to her home country.

"Sa dami ng superspreader events for the last 2 weeks at meron pa ring community transmission ang omicron variant na napakataas ang hawaan, expected 'yan na meron talagang uptick ng cases within the first week or the 2nd week after ng election," he said in a televised briefing.

(An uptick in cases within the first week or the 2nd week after the election is expected due to the many superspreader events for the last 2 weeks and continuous community transmission of the omicron variant, which is highly transmissible.)

"Sana naman 'di ganun kataaas dahil ang tinutukoy natin na variant ngayon, ang BA.2, mataas-taas pa ang protection natin sa BA.2. Ang medyo nangangamba tayo pumasok dito, ang BA.4 at BA.5."

(Let's hope the increase is not that high because we're talking about BA.2 here, we still have high protection for that variant. What we're worried about is if BA.4 and BA.5 enter the country.)

Reports of violations of minimum public health standards are also expected, Solante said. A person with COVID-19 can infect 5 to 8 persons in an area with bad ventilation, he noted. 

"Expected yan dahil sa nangyayari, especially nagka-anuhan ang votecounting machines, tumatagal dun sa room, hihintay. Merong expectations na pag may ganitong klaseng event, meron talagang paglabag sa health protocols," he said.

(Health protocol violations are expected especially since vote counting machines encountered problems, people waited longer in a room. There are expected health protocol violations in these kinds of event.)

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If there is no increase in virus infections, this means that the public still has enough protection against COVID-19, Solante said.

"Expected yan na kung walang surge or spike, that’s good news, ibig sabihin, mataas pa ang protection natin," he said. 

(It's expected that if there's no spike or surge, that's good news, it means our protection against the virus is still high.)

"Kung okay tayo after 2 weeks, then hopefully ma-continue natin. But we continue to be vigilant in our health protocol at sa pagbabakuna."

(If we're okay after 2 weeks, then hopefully we can sustain it. And we must continue to be vigilant in our health protocols and vaccination.)

Fully-vaccinated individuals, especially vulnerable sectors, are urged to receive their booster shots, Solante said.

"There maybe people that are vulnerable...those who got vaccine but haven't had booster. The absence will make them vulnerable for another infection," he told ANC's Headstart on Thursday.

As of May 9, some 13.5 million people have received their booster shots against the coronavirus, out of the 68 million who are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health. There are 38.7 million more eligible to get the additional jab.

Of the total fully inoculated individuals, 6.7 million are elderly, 9 million are persons with comorbidities, 2.2 million are children aged 5 to 11, and 9.3 million are teens.

The DOH has logged a total of more than 3.68 million COVID-19 cases since January 2020, of which, 3,638 are active as of Tuesday.

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