MANILA — Even though COVID-19 cases are plateauing in some areas of the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday said the country is still in a "race against COVID-19 variants of concern."
The health chief said in a taped briefing that the Philippines has to avoid COVID-19 surges that other countries are experiencing due to the Delta variant, which is 60% percent more contagious than the original strain.
The efforts that led to plateauing of cases in Luzon, including Metro Manila, and slow decline of infections in the Visayas and Mindanao should not be wasted, Duque stressed.
"Dapat itong maging daan tungo sa pagbabakuna ng mas maraming Pilipino, lalong-lalo na po ang mga senior citizens," he said, calling for continuous strict implementation of public health protocols, like border control and ramp-up of healthcare system capacities.
(This should lead to more vaccination of Filipinos, especially senior citizens.)
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. meanwhile said they are expecting an increase in vaccinations in the Philippines in the coming weeks as COVID-19 jabs deliveries become steadier.
Galvez said more than 3 million doses of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive this week.
He is also hopeful that over 3 million vials of COVID-19 shots will arrive from the vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility in the same period. The Philippines expects to receive on July 19 its first J&J vaccine batch, donated by the United States to the COVAX Facility, the Department of Health had announced.
"Ito po ang ibibigay natin sa mga island provinces atsaka ito po ang ibibigay natin sa lahat ng mga karatid pook ng Mindanao at Visayas," Galvez said.
(We will give these to island provinces and areas in Mindanao and the Visayas.)
The Philippines has administered some 13 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the DOH said earlier Monday.
Of the total 13,196,282 vaccine doses administered, some 9.6 million first doses were first jabs, while around 3.5 million were second shots, according to Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje.
With some 1.4 million coronavirus infections, the second-highest in Southeast Asia, the Philippines aims to vaccinate 58 to 70 million of its 109 population against COVID-19 to safely reopen the economy.