DOH calls on public to remain vigilant despite dip in COVID-19 cases

Robie de Guzman   •   October 7, 2021   •   282

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reminded the public to remain on alert despite the declining number of COVID-19 cases being recorded in the Philippines.

The DOH issued the reminder amid a dip in fresh coronavirus infections reported daily.

On Thursday, the country logged 10,019 new COVID-19 cases while the past few days saw over 9,000 new infections. The DOH earlier said that the lower case count was due to lower laboratory output.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency is analyzing all factors, including the decrease in laboratory outputs, and test outputs resulting in lower positivity rate and fewer hospital admissions, to determine whether the drop in case count is artificial or not.

“We got all the factors, we identified all the factors, and we tried to analyze kung talagang kumpirmado po that the decline of cases is not affected by any other factor at ito po ay totoong pagbaba ng kaso,” Vergeire said in a press briefing.

She, however, stressed that decreasing cases is not a sign for the public to become complacent.

“Alalahanin po natin na bagama’t bumababa ang mga kaso, ang atin pong mga ospital ay meron pa rin pong pagkapuno,” she said.

“Although, 68% lang ICU utilization natin ngayon, kailangan pa ring mapag-ingatan, patuloy na mapababa, at madecongest ang mga ospital so that we can be able to move on and open up some sectors again in our economy,” she added.

Vergeire also noted that the lower laboratory outputs are due to the use of antigen tests.

She also reminded the public that antigen test kits are only used in specific circumstances in order to get accurate results.

“Katulad po noong mga paggamit natin sa ngayon, kailangan din alalahanin natin ‘pag gumamit tayo, kailangan nari-report po natin sa mga kinauukulan para naisasama po natin at makumpleto natin ang datos natin,” she said.

“So if ever this will be given regulatory clearance by the Food and Drug Administration, ito po ay masasama doon sa modalities pero kailangan may guidelines po na ipapatupad so that we can also regulate the use,” she added.

The DOH earlier said that the use of antigen test is most effective for people who already manifested symptoms within the first five days of their onset as the viral load of the patient is at the highest during this time.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 response previously said that the number of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 through rapid antigen tests will be included in the Philippines’ case count.

The task force also directed the DOH NCR Center for Health Development to monitor and facilitate registration of facilities using rapid antigen kits and ensure that antigen line tests are collected and consolidated from health facilities, localities, as well as temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.

Palace says PH economic growth proof of strength, resilience amid challenges

Robie de Guzman   •   January 27, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang views the growth of the Philippine economy as evidence of the country’s strength and resilience despite the challenges it is facing brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters such as typhoons, acting presidential spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) posted a growth of 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter, resulting in 5.6 percent full-year growth in 2021.

It slightly exceeded the target range of 5 percent to 5.5 percent set by the Development Budget Coordination Committee last year. This is also faster compared to the third quarter, which was revised to 6.9 percent from 7.1 percent, and higher than expected by the government and the private sector.

“We commend our Economic Team for deftly managing the economy through these turbulent times, and thank our people for their sacrifices, hard work, and faith in the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during this challenging period,” Nograles said in a statement.

The Palace official said the administration will continue to pursue policies and reforms as we rebuild a stronger economy to provide Filipinos a “safe, healthy and comfortable life.”

To realize this, Nograles called for the passage of the amendments to the Public Service Act, which, he said, would open key sectors to foreign investments, subject to safeguards

The Palace also expressed support for the passage of the proposed Livestock Development and Competitiveness Bill to improve the competitiveness of the livestock, poultry, and dairy sectors.

Nograles also said that the Philippine Innovation Act should be implemented to improve people’s productivity.


IATF urged to begin pandemic exit plan for Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   January 27, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and OCTA Research fellow and molecular biologist Nicanor Austriaco on Thursday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to begin formulating a plan to take the Philippines out of the pandemic.

In a letter last January 26 addressed to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and IATF Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., Concepcion and Austriaco said that “it is time for the national government to transition our people from a pandemic to an endemic mindset.”

As an initial step, the two suggested the reinstatement of the international travel protocols in place prior to December 03, 2021, namely: pre-departure testing within 24 hours of departure using either an RT-PCR or rapid antigen test, with additional PCR-based test upon arrival; three-day quarantine; and arrival testing on the third day of quarantine, with exit permitted upon showing a negative result.

Concepcion and Austriaco noted that these protocols were already approved and being implemented but were put on hold when the Omicron variant hit the country.

“At this time, the Omicron surge has peaked in the National Capital Region and is expected to peak in the different regions of the country in the next two weeks,” they stated in the letter.

“In its wake, this surge will confer significant population protection throughout the archipelago,” they added.

The two also pointed out that a significant number of Filipinos have already acquired immunity from COVID-19, either through infection-acquired immunity or through vaccination.

“We put forward these suggestions as the country’s economic health is now a serious, time-sensitive issue,” Concepcion and Austriaco said in their letter.

They also expressed their belief that opening up the country to the world by easing and simplifying travel restrictions will “redound to many downstream benefits to the economy, especially the micro-, small and medium enterprises,” which make up 99.5 percent of the country’s businesses.

“Among the Asian countries, only the Philippines, Myanmar and Japan have the strictest travel restrictions,” observed Concepcion.

“The rest have either lifted curfews and stay-at-home orders, opened their borders to non-citizens and non-residents, and have allowed all or most commercial flights to the country,” he added.

Austriaco also thinks that Thailand’s “test-and-go” system might also be applicable for the Philippines since “it is now in a better place to do so after having had an Omicron wave.”

Meanwhile, Concepcion reiterated his earlier push to ease the country’s travel restrictions without compromising safety by scrapping facility-based quarantines and instead requiring only home quarantines.

He said travelers who have had COVID within 60 days can be exempted from quarantine to further decongest bottlenecks at quarantine facilities.

He also suggested re-allocating resources used in facility quarantines to “more intensive surveillance of positive COVID cases” among arriving passengers, saying this would generate more useful data in guiding future policy.

“The next few months will be critical in how the country will move on from the pandemic,” Concepcion said.

“I believe the government should set an example and start opening the country to the world. This will instill confidence in the vaccines and encourage more of our countrymen to take them,” he added.

Philippine economy grows 5.6% in 2021 – PSA

Robie de Guzman   •   January 27, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine economy grew faster at 5.6 percent, higher than the government’s target range for the fourth quarter of 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said Thursday.

Data released by the PSA stated that the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) posted a growth of 7.7 percent in the last quarter, resulting in 5.6 percent full-year growth in 2021.

This is faster compared to the third quarter, which was revised to 6.9 percent from 7.1 percent, and higher than expected by the government and the private sector.

The PSA listed manufacturing (7.2 percent), wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (7.4 percent); and construction (18.5 percent) as the main contributors to the fourth quarter 2021 growth.

The same industries also contributed the most to the annual growth: manufacturing (8.6 percent); wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (4.3 percent); and construction (9.8 percent).

All major economic sectors – agriculture, forestry, fishing, industry and services – posted positive growths in the fourth quarter with 1.4 percent, 9.5 percent, and 7.9 percent, respectively.

On an annual basis, the PSA said industry and services registered positive growths of 8.2 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively while agriculture, forestry, and fishing posted a contraction of -0.3 percent.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) set a target GDP growth of 5 to 5.5 percent last year from the previous 4 percent to 5 percent.



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