Philippines must first boost immunity to gradually lift COVID restrictions, says DOH

Michael Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2022 04:14 PM

Shoppers go around the Divisoria market in Manila on Nov. 14, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file
Shoppers go around the Divisoria market in Manila on Nov. 14, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) said the Philippines will gradually follow the United States' model of loosening COVID-19 restrictions.

DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country is taking the same direction as the US, where the healthcare system will only "protect the most vulnerable."

"We are here to live with the virus because we know that the virus will stay. Ang importante sa ating lahat, and I think the US government also has that kind of objective, that we will protect the most vulnerable, we will protect our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, and will try to prevent as much as possible severe and critical cases and deaths," Vergeire said last Friday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had earlier recommended the lifting of the following restrictions: physical distancing, quarantine, and testing for asymptomatic patients with no exposure.

It has also recommended limiting contact tracing to healthcare personnel and other high-risk settings.

The CDC said the United States is now in a better condition to protect the public from severe COVID-19 infection.

Although the loosening of restrictions does not mean that the pandemic is over, it aims to help the public to return to their normal lives without having to worry about the coronavirus.

“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” CDC Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch chief Greta Massetti said.

“We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation. This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives," she added.

For Vergeire, the Philippines needs to increase its immunity before lifting restrictions. But for now, she said the DOH is pushing for individual responsibility among Filipinos for everyone's protection.

According to the latest DOH data, 72 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, of whom 17 million have received their booster shots.


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