End of COVID-19 pandemic not yet in sight for Philippines - expert

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2022 05:19 PM | Updated as of Sep 19 2022 06:00 PM

Commuters line up at the EDSA Bus Carousel along Monumento in Caloocan City on Sept. 14, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Commuters line up at the EDSA Bus Carousel along Monumento in Caloocan City on Sept. 14, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The end of COVID-19 pandemic is not yet in sight for the Philippines, an infectious diseases specialist said Monday.

According to Dr. Rontgene Solante, there is still a continuing community transmission of coronavirus in the country.

"Sa ngayon, hindi ko pa nakikita na 'yung ganung pananaw because although mas mababa ang mga kaso natin ngayon kumpara nung January o September last year pero tuloy-tuloy pa rin na meron tayong community transmission, especially with this BA.5 variant," he said in a televised press briefing.

Last week, the Department of Health reported 167 additional cases of highly contagious offshoots of the omicron COVID-19 variant.

Of the figure, 163 were omicron BA.5., which helped drive a wave of new cases of the disease in parts of the world in recent months.

Solante made the remark when asked regarding the World Health Organization's recent pronouncement about the pandemic.

The UN health agency has said newly reported cases of the disease fell to the lowest level since March 2020. But it warned that the decline in new infections is deceptive, since many countries have cut back on testing and may not be detecting the less serious cases.

In the Philippines, some regions are still classified as "moderate risk" for COVID-19 infection, Solante nsaid.

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Courtesy of PTV

Last week, the DOH announced that Metro Manila had reverted to "moderate risk" after recording a 16.4 percent positivity rate, which is triple of WHO's benchmark of 5 percent.

Positivity rate refers to the percentage of all tests that are positive for coronavirus. 

"Kung matatanaw man natin, hindi pa siguro within the next 2 or 3 months kasi mataas-taas pa rin o meron pa ring mga kaso tayong nakikita," Solante said.

Last week, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. also issued an executive order making the use of face masks optional outdoors all over the country, some two years after government required masks to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

"The voluntary wearing of face masks in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation, is hereby allowed," reads Marcos' EO No. 3, which takes effect immediately.

It said though that face masks should still be worn in the following places:

Indoor private or public establishments
Public transportation 
Outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained
 
The same order said individuals who are not fully vaccinated, senior citizens, and the immunocompromised are "highly encouraged to wear their masks."