DOH Bicol echoes WHO warning of new Covid-19 surge this May

By Keren Anne Bernadas


The Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) of the Department of Health’s Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) reported 22 new COVID cases from April 24 to April 30 with three average cases each day.


This has brought to 29 percent the increase in COVID-19 infection as compared to last week’s daily rate.


The increase could also be caused by the recently conducted surveillance swabbing of healthcare workers (HCW). This is due to the interim guidelines on mandatory COVID-19 testing of public and private HCWs.


The guidelines also advised the surveillance testing of all frontline workers (teachers, security personnel, et al.) serving the elections.


Besides, HCWs have long been deployed to conduct and deliver the basic health services in the community. It has also been three months since the last swabbing during the height of Omicron variant.


Speaking at Monday’s (May 2) Ugnayan briefing, Ken Nuyda of RESU said a possible surge of COVID-19 cases this month has been sounded by the World Health Organization (WHO).


The warning, premised on the observation that public compliance with minimum public health standards was declining, was only a projection and was not cast in stone, the DOH said.


The DOH was referring to its previous warning that a 50-percent decrease in the compliance to minimum public health standards may lead to nearly “half a million” active infections in National Capital Region (NCR) alone by mid-May.


“As emphasized by Usec Vergeire last April 19, during the media forum, if people refuse to follow the MPHS, there is an updated projection from the FASSSTER team wherein the county might reach half a million active cases. However, as mentioned by the Usec, this is just a projection, this is not casting stone, di natin alam kung ito mangyayari o hindi. It is only being used to guide the government on what measures to take in the next days or weeks,” Nuyda said.


The FASSSTER projection includes the assumptions that if individuals or the community or population will have reduced compliance with MPHS by about 30 to 50 percent this kind of increase in cases might happen. It might not reach half a million but we might experience an increase if people do not follow the protocols such as wearing masks, and social distancing, among others.


“Dr. Edsel Salvana Technical Advisory Group Infectious Disease said that we do not have a similar situation as in 2020, today we have the vaccines - the immunity already which are proven to protect us from severe and critical symptoms. In case the surge might happen and if more people are vaccinated and boosted, there will be less severe cases,” Nuyda added.


2nd booster shots for Covid-19


In the same episode of Ugnayan briefing, Dr. Monrey Isaiah Mancilla, Covid-19 vaccination coordinator for Bicol, clarified the administration of second boosters of Covid-19 vaccines.


“Based on the Guidelines, the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) recommended the administration of 4th dose or 2nd booster dose of Covid-19 vaccines with the following vaccine brands: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Coronavac (Sinovac), and Sinopharm among the immunocompromised population (ICPs) ages 18 years old and above to be given at least three (3) months after the third dose or first booster dose, with a preference for mRNA vaccines based on the available real world evidence on the immunogenicity and safety,” Mancilla said.


He explained the possibility of the surge even though most Bicolanos are already vaccinated: “Vaccine wanes over time hence the importance of booster doses. But if COVID-19 cases increases, and if people are vaccinated and boosted, we will have lesser severe or critical cases of COVID-19 hence lesser number of people will be hospitalized.”


The DOH 5 reported that there were 3, 363, 745 vaccinated individuals who received at least one dose in the region. That is 72.89 coverage rate out of 4, 999, 073 target population. (PIA5/KAVB)