MANILA, Philippines — Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III is confident that the country can prevent transmission of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Duque said the Philippines has been successful in containing the transmission of the variant because of the public’s compliance with government measures to fight the deadly disease.
“And so, I think we have strong reason to believe that our compliance and thanks to our people because they — a great majority of them follow the minimum public health standards and this should still prove effective against transmission of variants like Omicron,” Duque said during the weekly Talk to Nation of President Rodrigo Duterte aired Tuesday (December 21) night.
The DOH chief’s statement was in response to the President’s query regarding the government’s vaccination program’s reliability when pitted against the Omicron variant.
“I think there are studies to show that the effectiveness of the vaccines and those who have received booster doses looks like 50 to 80 percent pa rin ang kanyang effectiveness, especially against severe and critical COVID infection. And so we cross our fingers that more studies will support this,” Duque said.
He added that the Philippines has also been successful in containing the transmission of the variant by its implementation of resilient border control.
“Our border controls have been heightened, and that is why we were able to catch three. We already have imported Omicron cases in the country,” he said.
Duque also assured the President that the country’s health experts are monitoring the situation in countries where cases of the Omicron variant are high through the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Because the WHO is able to collate all the information coming from the different countries where Omicron variants have been reported, Sir, you know, sa France, Italy, Germany, Greece, UK, Netherlands, and many other countries,” Duque said.
“So that’s why from that information, we were able to receive that the doubling time of the Omicron variant is somewhere between 1.3 to about 2.6 days doubling time, which again reflects the greater transmissibility of this variant, which is a cause for concern,” he added.
The DOH chief reiterated that the public’s “compliance to minimum public health standards, ito pong masking, hugas, iwas ay — as we have proven them — very effective against Alpha, against Beta, against Gamma, against Delta”.
This, he stressed, should also prove effective against Omicron variant transmission.
Duque was quick to add, however, that breakthrough infections may still occur.
“There are really two things that we should be very mindful of. And the vaccines are not really barring transmission. That’s why you have breakthrough infection despite people being vaccinated,” he said.
“And having said that, Mr. President, we have heard from the WHO about two weeks ago that the current crop of vaccines can cut transmission with Delta to about 40 percent. So ano pong ibig sabihin niyan? Ibig sabihin 60 percent pa posibleng magkaroon ng infection despite their full vaccination,” he added.
“Now, exactly with Omicron. How much lower will be — will the transmission be reduced ‘no? So iyan, alam na natin it’s a reality. Talagang mayroong breakthrough infection. Mayroong immune escape with the vaccines,” Duque futher said. —/mbmf