MANILA - Government must intensify its surveillance of COVID-19 cases, ramp up its vaccination program, and stock up on antivirals in preparation for a possible rise in infections, a health advocate said Wednesday.
Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, made the remark following the detection of local transmission of the highly transmissible omicron BA.2.12.1 in Metro Manila, Puerto Princesa City, and Western Visayas.
Government is urged to increase its budget for genome sequencing and to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot campaign, Leachon said.
"We cannot be complacent given that the waning immunity in terms of timeline is fast-approaching and the rainy season is also coming and this would actually enhance the spread of the viral transmission," he told ANC's Headstart.
Authorities are also urged to monitor emergency rooms as majority of patients will likely present with mild symptoms and would not need hospital admission, according to Leachone.
"We need to address also at the workplace level because they will call in sick, they have these flu-like presentations. Even if it’s not admissible, it can cause this particular problem we call the long COVID symptoms," he said, adding that 30 percent to 40 percent of patients experience it.
Leachon said he would support infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Salvana if he would be named as the next health chief.
"He’s a colleague at the Manila Doctors [Hospital]. He's very competent and well-received," he said.
The health secretary must have "honesty with a high level of integrity, competent, inspiring, forward-looking with a vision and encouraged to tell the truth," according to Leachon.
They must also have a "sense of urgency and agility, honor the coalition of public and private stakeholders so they can actually work together," he added.
The next administration must implement government's pandemic exit plan within the first 100 days and then create an agenda to improve the healthcare workforce and implement fully the Universal Healthcare Act, Leachon said.
"We're the number 1 exporter of nurses, the number 2 exporter of doctors next to India. I think we need to address these issues," he said.