MANILA — The Philippines seems to have contained its COVID-19 outbreak, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday, in agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent remark.
COVID-19 cases in the country did not spike even after massive gatherings during the election season, while coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths remained low.
But Duque said the public has to remain cautious as the coronavirus might still mutate. Recent mutations are more transmissible, but so far no evidence showed that they are deadlier.
“So far, given our measures, our interventions, mukhang contained na siya (it seems that it's already contained). The data will support that claim. But at the same time we are realistic to accept the fact that this virus is notorious for mutations. It is capable of springing surprises at every turn,” Duque said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay online forum.
“We have to be realistic. We should temper our expectations. What is more important is the realization that the virus is here to stay… We usher in the new normal or the endemic phase of this public health concern,” he added.
Duterte on Monday said the Philippines contained the coronavirus outbreak "very much earlier" than some countries.
Duque said the Duterte government would not implement a pandemic Alert Level Zero and that this was up to the next administration to consider.
"But there has to be a clear basis," he said.
The DOH chief called on President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr's government to continue and institutionalize the alert system and other COVID-19 interventions.
“Rather than dumping it or trashing it, they should institutionalize it,” Duque said.
“We progressed into this alert leveling system… No more widespread community lockdowns, it’s now going to be granular, worse comes to worst… so mas targeted ang response (the response will be more targeted),” he added.
The Philippines recorded 168 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed, pushing the number of active COVID cases in the country to 2,437.
Data from the DOH also showed the number of deaths at 60,456, with no new fatality recorded Tuesday.
From May 30 to June 5, the country recorded 1,295 new COVID-19 cases or an average of 185 per day, which is 1.4 percent lower than the cases reported from the previous week, the DOH said.
Malacañang on Tuesday announced that the government has allowed all establishments under COVID Alert Level 1 to operate at 100 percent capacity, including mass gatherings, but only for those with full vaccination status.