WHO warns PH of COVID upsurge if quarantine restrictions eased
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday warned the Philippines that it may observe an upsurge of COVID-19 cases if the government eases quarantine restrictions, considering that the country has yet to start vaccinations and there is still the threat of new variants.
WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the government must still consider the fact that COVID-19 cases in the country, including Metro Manila, are still “plateauing.”
“It hasn’t flattened yet and so we still need to be conscious about the fact that there is a relatively high level of transmission there in the community and that situation is also complicated by the presence of new variants,” he said in a public briefing.
“If we now go for large-scale relaxation of measures, given the current existing situation and the circulation of variants, and the fact that it will still be many months before a large proportion of Filipinos are vaccinated, we may witness a situation where there’ll be an upsurge of cases and the overwhelming of the health [care system],” he added.
The WHO official was reacting to the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) proposal to place the country under modified general community quarantine, a less restrictive quarantine classification, and the reopening of cinemas other establishments by March.
While WHO understands that there are “significant economic burdens on sectors of the population” due to restrictions, Abeyasinghe said measures should be “carefully calibrated and decided upon before being implemented.”
The Philippines has so far been able to contain the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the health system from being overwhelmed because of restrictions, he added.
“I believe firmly that we still need to maintain these restrictions. That doesn’t mean that we cannot loosen up in areas where the economy will benefit,” Abeyasinghe said.
He said easing restrictions should be done in a “very targeted manner” with an understanding of both economic benefits and health risks.
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