Expert urges Filipinos: Avoid Christmas gatherings, COVID-19 vaccines are coming


Posted at Nov 24 2020 09:22 AM | Updated as of Nov 24 2020 10:48 AM

MANILA – An infectious disease expert on Tuesday urged Filipinos to celebrate this year’s Christmas festivities virtually and avoid gatherings to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“We do urge people as much as possible not to mix households. Just do virtual Christmas if you can. Konti na lang. The vaccines are coming,” Dr. Edsel Salvana told ANC’s “Matters of Fact”.

Salvana, who is a member of the technical advisory group that advises the Department of Health (DOH), expressed concern that gathering in close contact with family members, friends and relatives could increase the risk of catching COVID-19.

Expert urges Filipinos: Avoid Christmas gatherings, COVID-19 vaccines are coming 1
Vendors showcase their wares as shoppers look for Christmas decorations at the Dapitan Arcade in Quezon City on Oct. 23, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

In a public briefing aired Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the agency would implement a department circular to remind Filipinos to continue observing minimum public health standards during the holiday season.

Under the circular, holiday activities such as caroling, shopping in crowded markets and shopping centers, indoor gathering with large crowds, riding in stuffed public transportation vehicles, and others that involve physical contact are discouraged.

Duque has called on other government agencies and local government units to implement the circular.

During the interview, Salvana said COVID-19 cases in the country was “going down” as it recorded less than 2,000 cases the past 14 days.

He noted that the epidemic was “moving out” of the Philippine capital but was spreading in other regions.

“What we do have to be aware of is that the epidemic seems to be moving out of Metro Manila. We're seeing surges in Davao, Tarlac and even in Baguio. So we really have to be cautious,” he said.

Salvana, also the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health at the University of the Philippines Manila, warned that other regions may not be able to cope with the surge of COVID-19 cases.

“As we open up, we expect that there will be more cases. But what happened is that the people in NCR (National Capital Region) have really learned how to live with the virus,” he said.

“But in the provinces where they haven't really seen surges, they are still kind of feeling their way. The danger there really is their health-care system capacity is not as big as that of Manila so they can easily get overwhelmed. So we really have to keep a close eye on those areas.”

Data from DOH showed that COVID-19 cases in the Philippines had reached 420,614, with 8,173 fatalities. The nationwide tally includes 386,604 people who have recovered from the disease while 25,837 others were still sick with the virus.

In terms of new cases in the past 2 weeks, the top 5 regions are Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Davao Region and Western Visayas.

Meanwhile, Davao City, Cavite, Quezon City, Rizal and Laguna have the most number of new cases in the last 14 day by province or city.

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