File photo shows passengers wearing protective masks while waiting at the Araneta Center Bus Terminal in Cubao, Quezon City. (Photo source Reuters)
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — With authorities announcing the relaxing of age-based restrictions in the implementation of minimum health safety measures, the Department of Health (DoH) noted a growing number of people becoming complacent in following the protocols, prompting the issuance of a warning that this could be the cause of a spike in the number of Covid-19 infections across the country.
In a statement, health secretary Francisco Duque III reminded the citizenry, particularly workers and some front-liners like policemen and medical staff as well as a number of barangay officials that breaches in compliance with the minimum public health standards are the primary driver of infection and mutation of the coronavirus disease.
“What may seem as a minor breach in the protocol or a misstep in our masking and coughing etiquettes can lead to a spike in cases. The next time we place our masks below our chins, raise our face shields above our heads, or the next time we go out and mingle just because we can without fear of consequences, we are choosing to become an agent of transmission,” Duque warned.
Last week, Malacañang announced that people aged 10 years to 65 years in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) will now be allowed to go out even as presidential spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque clarified that the relaxed age-based restrictions will take effect starting February 1, 2021.
Following this announcement, experts from the University of the Philippines, OCTA Research team expressed concern over a possible surge in the number of cases of Covid-19 due to the relaxation of protocols as well as complacency among the public and continuous violations by some.
According to UP-OCTA Research Professor Ranjit Rye, the government should carefully consider this decision given the looming threat of the UK Covid-19 variant and possible the other strain discovered in South Africa, which according to British health minister Boris Johnson us “more worrisome.”
“It is still being collected that the new and more contagious UK variant is already in our communities. Why will you change policy in such a drastic way and expose vulnerable groups to more, possibly contagious new variants that will only increase new cases and possibly increase mortality?” Rye noted.
“This is against all sensible epidemic management that exists around the world,” he added.
For its part, the Department of Health (DoH) explained that the agency has solid evidence to back its decision and change the existing policy.
To ensure that the feared surge in cases will not happen, the health chief revealed that the health department is closely working with local government units on the strict implementation of the prevailing health protocols imposed by the government.
Duque reiterated his call to the public to continue following the preventive measures—and doing them properly—as these seemingly insignificant actions may spell the difference in the lives of other people down the chain of infection.
Duque underscored that the actions of each and everyone can save the lives of people by preventing transmission.
“It is the little things that can stop the spread of disease–the proper wearing of a mask and a face shield may be uncomfortable at times, but enduring a little discomfort can save lives,” he said. (AI/MTVN)