MANILA – Health experts say Filipinos can expect a better holiday season this year despite the recent detection of the BQ.1 Omircon sublineage.
This can be attributed to the high coverage of the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and continued compliance to minimum public health standards.
The low number of cases has made much of the public wonder when COVID-19 will be considered an endemic disease.
The DOH earlier said that in order for COVID to be considered endemic, the number of those being admitted in hospitals or dying from it have to be "within acceptable levels".
But even if it does become endemic, epidemiologist Dr. John Wong says it doesn’t mean that it is no longer dangerous.
“We should also think about it’s endemic for whom? It can be endemic for the vaccianted, for those with no comorbidities pero it can still be dangerous for the elderly and people with comorbidities. so we should take steps to protect the vulnerable,” he said.
DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr. Alethea De Guzman says, should COVID finally be considered as endemic, the public’s health seeking behavior which was greatly improved in the last two years should not change.
“Pag naging endemic ang COVID, yung ginagawa natin ngayon a lot of the things are actually the same things we still need to do. For a not usually mask wearing country, natuto tayong mag mask. Natuto tayong mas maging conscious. There’s improved health seeking behavior,” she said.
De Guzman said that even as the country has loosened mask mandates in most settings, it would still be wise to continue using them.
Based on projections, should compliance to minimum public health standards continue, daily cases of COVID-19 may drop to around 400 per day.
Do the opposite and the public is sure to see a rise in cases.
“Parating naman ang holidays so posibleng mas dadami ang interaction, lalong mababa ang social distancing, nababawasan yung ating compliance to masking. If mphs further decreases our daily cases may probably range from 1140-2294 by the end of December. Our acctive cases may reach 18k by December.”
With the rise in infections comes the inevitable rise in admissions. Based on DOH projections in the National Capital Region, admissions may rise to 800. This is still lower than the 1,200 admissions during the peak of the Delta surge.
Among other factors that need to be planned out carefully is the possibility of shortening isolation protocols for those who will get infected.
Current guidelines state that the isolation period for a COVID-19 positive patient is seven days.
In other countries like the United States, isolation has been shortened to 5 days.
“But then we lifted the mask mandate, so mag-iincrease yung risk if we remove the isolation protocol. So we have to see how to more or less neutralize that added risk and talk about it. Kasi malaki rin ang burden eh,” said DOH Technical Advisory Group Member Dr. Edsel Salvana.
“Magpositive ka, 7 days out of commission ka. That’s a real economic burden specially for people who can’t work at home. So I think that’s one of the things that we really have to talk about, specially we’re going down on our mphs, including masking," he added.
With mobility now returning to pre-pandemic levels, health experts say the public need not worry as a myriad of tools are now available to control the spread and manage the disease. What remains important now that the holiday rush is fast approaching is for people to continue being responsible and exercising caution.