The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is really over because of the country’s high vaccination rate, an infectious diseases expert said Thursday.
In a briefing, Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the Department of Health (DOH) Technical Advisory Group, said even if the number of COVID-19 cases tripled at the start of the year due to the Omicron variants, the deaths were “nowhere near” those recorded during the peak of the Delta variant transmission.
“Due to this, we can say that because of vaccines, the worst is really over for the pandemic, but of course, there is nothing that will stop the virus from continuing to mutate, especially if the transmission continues,” Salvana said.
“Even if these are mild, even if these are asymptomatic, the virus can continue to evolve so we need to be vigilant. But in terms of deaths and severe disease, I think that the worst is over because of vaccination,” Salvana said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Salvana said COVID-19 transmission will continue if many Filipinos remain unvaccinated or have not yet received their booster shot.
“The problem is the more infections occur, the more likely that we’ll get a mutated virus, especially those that can escape our current vaccines,” he said.
The Department of Health’s national COVID-19 vaccination dashboard reported that there are now 71 million Filipinos fully vaccinated.
Of this number, only 15.1 million have received their booster shots.
The Philippines on Wednesday logged 1,604 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the active tally to 14,862.
Senator Nancy Binay on Wednesday said the Senate might need to convene the Committee of the Whole once the 19th Congress opens to discuss pending concerns about COVID-19.
She cited the need to review vaccination programs, access to boosters, the status of health care workers, health and pandemic statistics, levels of preparedness and exit plans.
Binay expressed her support for the government’s booster drive, especially in the face of pandemic fatigue and vaccine complacency.
“As of today, everyone’s experiencing pandemic fatigue and vaccine complacency. With the lowering of cases during the past days, people have become less vigilant,” she said.
She said the DOH needs to be more aggressive in promoting boosters.
“What is important is we all agree that the paramount concern is to be fully protected from the virus,” she said.
The senator also emphasized the need to continue revisiting and reviewing the country’s public health policies to ensure these are up-to-date and in line with international standards.
Also on Thursday, the Palace said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is ready to attend face-to-face activities once his mandatory seven-day isolation ends.
The last day of Marcos’ isolation was on Thursday, the seventh day since he tested positive in an antigen test for thE COVID-19, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a Palace press briefing.
“He has to finish his isolation. It’s his seventh day, his doctor said. He already has no symptoms but he has to finish his isolation period,” she said in Filipino.
Marcos’ son and Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos tested negative for COVID-19 despite being exposed to his father.
First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, and the two other presidential sons, William Vincent and Joseph Simon, have not been exposed to Marcos.