We share the optimism the government has that it can achieve population protection against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) before 2021 ends this week by fully vaccinating about eight million more.
We heard Presidential Adviser on COVID-19 Response and testing czar, Secretary Vince Dizon, during a virtual presser say the vaccination program remarkably slowed down due to Typhoon Odette, which devastated parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, literally crippling the second leg of the nationwide drive “Bayanihan, Bakunahan.”
He said the government was trying to reach this population protection “so we just need to further ramp up our vaccination, especially administering second doses in the coming days, the remaining days of 2021.”
The latest data from the National COVID-19 vaccination dashboard showed the Philippines had administered 105,118,508 doses nationwide since the rollout started in March.
Of the total number, 46,954,697 Filipinos have completed their primary doses and 1,341,314 received their booster shots or additional doses.
Dizon said the National Task Force Against COVID-19 would also speed up the use of single-dose Janssen vaccines to meet the target 54 million fully vaccinated Filipinos until December 31.
There has been a continuing downtrend of COVID-19 cases in the country as the positivity rate was lowered to only 0.8 percent from the previous 1 percent, described by Dizon as a “very huge” accomplishment despite the setbacks caused by Typhoon Odette in the vaccination campaign.
In the meanwhile, as the Philippines prepares to celebrate the arrival of New Year 2022 – that’s next Sunday already, officials have said the country of 110 million will remain under Alert Level 2 status from December 16 to 31.
Acting Presidential Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases decided to retain the alert level status as the Department of Health reported the first two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Philippines.
A third in fact had been detected since.
“We are being very cautious because of the threat of Omicron that we see in other countries, territories, and jurisdictions positive for Omicron especially local transmission where cases are increasing. We also don’t know a lot about Omicron yet,” Nograles told a Malacanang press briefing.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus also said the new Omicron variant of coronavirus had been confirmed in 77 countries and was spreading faster than any previous variant.
Omicron, first detected in South Africa last month, has been declared as a variant of concern by the UN health agency.
The IATF-EID has yet to finalize the parameters for the country to shift to the least restrictive Alert Level 1 status.
The government is still boosting the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, with officials aiming to fully vaccinate more than 54 million Filipinos by Friday.
At the same time, the government is on alert in anticipation of thousands of returning overseas Filipino workers during the holidays – with quarantine, if necessary, waiting for those showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Despite postponing the shift to the lowest Alert Level 1 status, Nograles said this was the best decision to strike a balance between people’s health and the economy.
Authorities are upbeat that the country’s positivity rate is also at its lowest at 0.9 percent out of 24,120 tests conducted. But the DOH said the test rate was considerably lower than the past days after 12 labs were not able to submit their data.
Given the possibility of crowds during the holidays, and the impending expanded face-to-face classes in January, we should not be complacent – the threat of COVID-19 and its variants remain. (ai/mtvn)