As the voluntary wearing of face masks in public spaces and the lessening of COVID-19 mitigation mandates are implemented, the virus continues to surge in multiple places in the country, garnering a 19-33 percent range increase in cases from the previous weeks, pre-2023.
The Department of Health (DOH) filed 1,721 new COVID-19 cases from March 2023 alone. Based on DOH’s coronavirus tracker, as of early January, the country’s COVID-19 death toll of 65,475 heightened with 78 more fatalities.
However, the DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire stated in an interview that the Philippines’ COVID-19 situation is manageable.
“Generally, our situation is manageable. The positivity rate has also decreased in most of the areas of the country as well as nationally.”
As news of decreasing trends of COVID-19 is released, average daily cases climbed to 246 from 167, recorded weeks before March 20. The country’s caseload since 2020 totaled 4,081,818, with 59 additional active cases in two months—indicating an alarming uptrend for April.
In preparation for the Holy Week, Davao Center for Health Development (DCHD) announced the possibility of a ‘surge’ in Advisory No. 2, Series 2023, as there is a notable increase in COVID-19 cases in Davao City.
“There’s actually a steady increase in the cases of COVID-19 ngayon. To the point that SPMC has actually opened a new wing for COVID-19 patients…sa ibang hospitals also, I have seen marami na namang cases ng COVID-19,” Doctor-on-duty in Ateneo de Davao (AdDU) college clinic Dr. Nina Custodio said.
She debunked the ‘no more COVID’ belief, stating that the struggle with COVID-19 is ‘far’ from over.
“It’s still there. We’re still actually monitoring new strings of the virus. The only difference is, hindi niyo lang siya masyadong nakikita ngayon in the news. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist anymore.”
At the start of 2023, the Davao region, in particular, had the second highest number of cases with 371, Manila being first with 846, then Northern Mindanao (364), Calabarzon (270), and Soccsksargen (168) followed.
“Currently, hand washing, use of masks, and social distancing are still advised but not enforced. Vaccination is the main prevention, targeting 95 percent immunization to reach herd immunity.” Balete, Batangas Municipal Health Officer Dr. Czar Quinto told Atenews these as primary initiatives
Dr. Custodio also reminded to instill the fundamental protocols and follow simple preventive measures.
“For those who haven’t had their boosters or their immunizations yet, maybe you’d want to second think of actually getting them completed because World Health Organization’s definition of a fully vaccinated individual has the first 2 vaccines plus at least one booster.”
As of January 2023, the population of vaccinated Filipinos reached 94.48 percent, with more than 78.4 million people immunized, and 23.8 million of those only got booster shots. Despite almost reaching the 95 percent target, Dr. Quinto reminded to “not be complacent” and to remain vigilant.
“To be complacent is for those who never learn. I do hope that this pandemic makes us realize that we need to be vigilant. We need to let go of our basta na and or bahala na mentality. We need to be ready all the time… so that history will not repeat itself.”
On the other hand, restrictions imposed by other nations on China in response to COVID-19 emerged; Vergeire continued to state that there is ‘no need’ for DOH to intensify monitoring of incoming individuals outbound from China at all ports of entry.
“We don’t see the need to close our border or impose stricter restrictions specific to this country,” Vergeire stated in a press briefing.
In December 2022, DOH declared the issuance of Department Memorandum No. 2023-0578 or the Reiteration of Heightened Alert for COVID-19 Arrival from China.
Studies on safety
Dissertations emerged as President Ferdinand Marcos released executive orders on the country’s liberalization of face mask mandates.
Institute of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of the Philippines Manila Director Dr. Marissa M. Alejandria still urged to continue mask-wearing despite the mandate.
“Wearing your mask is an informed choice. Since it’s now voluntary, you need to empower yourself to assess the risk for every activity you’re going to do and every place you’re going to visit,” she said.
With the university transitioning to onsite classes, third-year AdDU Medical Biology student Louie Tulipas mentioned feeling relatively safe without wearing masks nowadays.
“However, I still do wear masks in school or in public transportation just as an extra precaution, and bring an extra mask as well.”
Third-year Chemical engineering student Ysa Gil and fourth-year Nursing student Mary Capricho expressed the same sentiments, noting feeling safer because of the vaccinations but still wary of acquiring the virus.
“However, I prefer to still wear facemasks outside to protect myself from air pollution, dust, and the likes, since I commute daily,” Capricho said.
Nonetheless, Dr. Custodio still urged the mandatory wearing of masks inside the campus.
“Any company or institution has the right to actually choose the protocol that they want to adapt. If Ateneo feels that kailangan mandatory ‘yung mask inside the campus, then I think it should be followed.”
She also added current mitigation protocols instilled by AdDU regarding COVID-19.
“Practically, ang protocol ng Ateneo hasn’t really changed from the beginning. I think it’s warranted maybe because of the fact na may face-to-face na…pretty much ‘yung protocols that have been adopted by Ateneo based on the City Health Office and Government Health Protocols remain the same.”
This article was published in the April 2023 Issue of Atenews. Read it here: https://issuu.com/atenews/docs/atenews_2023_tabloid