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OCTA warns new COVID cases may hit 5,000-10,000 daily

Medical workers in PPEs. STORY: OCTA warns new COVID cases may hit 5,000-10,000 daily

IMAGE: Daniella Agacer

MANILA, Philippines — New COVID-19 cases in the Philippines could reach 5,000 to 10,000 a day once the new Omicron subvariants enter the country, the independent analytics group OCTA Research warned on Tuesday.

“We are seeing a possible increase in cases. Actually, it could happen anytime, we can’t say when it will reach us. The reason is that we are seeing a surge in South Africa and in India, and these are countries that have similar characteristics to the Philippines,” Octa Research fellow Guido David said at the Laging Handa briefing.

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Based on the group’s preliminary projections, David said active COVID-19 cases in the country could hit 100,000 “anytime.”

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed that as of April 25, the number of active COVID-19 cases, or those people still sick with the virus, was 12,639. For the period April 11-17, the DOH said the number of new cases averaged 209 a day.

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OCTA fellow Ranjit Rye said a jump in COVID-19 cases in the country would be “inevitable” because of the further opening of the economy and the threat of the Omicron subvariants.

“What we are saying is that there is a very big possibility of cases going up so our call, like the call of everyone who spoke before us, is for us to be vaxxed to the max,” Rye said also at the Laging Handa briefing.

But David said the possible spike in COVID-19 cases would not be as severe as the surge in January this year, adding that he was not expecting a high hospitalization rate should there be a spike.

While the new COVID-19 subvariants could “spread quickly” and “increase rapidly,” he pointed out that infections could also drop as fast due to the high level of vaccination in various areas in the country.

“Because our vaccination rate is high, we may not need to implement a lockdown. Maybe we can manage hospital utilization because there would be few severe cases,” he said.

Only for immunocompromised

The Philippines started on Monday the rollout of the second COVID-19 booster shot, but the DOH on Tuesday reminded hospitals and other vaccination sites to administer this only to immunocompromised individuals as it received reports that some facilities included other priority sectors such as health workers and seniors.

The DOH confirmed to the Inquirer that a hospital in Caloocan City gave second boosters to those who were not immunocompromised, but declined to name the facility.

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The health department said the hospital’s management explained that it “unintentionally” followed the amended emergency use authorization instead of the DOH-issued interim operational guidelines for second boosters specifically for immunocompromised patients, the top priority sector in the fight against COVID-19.

Another vaccination site in Pateros on Monday also prioritized medical front-liners and seniors for second boosters, based on an advisory of the official Facebook page of the lone municipality of Metro Manila.

“The DOH and NVOC (National Vaccination Operations Center) are currently coordinating with the relevant health-care facilities and vaccination sites to prevent further instances of these events,” the DOH said.

The FDA has approved the provision of second boosters for the top three priority groups, namely medical front-liners, the elderly and the immunocompromised. However, the DOH has to wait, in accordance with the law, for the final review of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), an independent advisory body.

The HTAC has so far issued its final recommendations only for the immunocompromised and is still finalizing its review for health-care workers and seniors.

As local governments in Metro Manila also started administering second booster shots to their immunocompromised residents, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said they were also conducting house-to-house vaccination for bed-ridden individuals who could not go to the inoculation site.

In Muntinlupa City, the rollout of second booster doses began on Tuesday and eligible residents were allowed to simply walk in at any of the vaccination centers in the city.

Still reluctant

Meanwhile, only one in four Filipinos have received their first booster shot, while only a third want to get boosted against COVID-19, according to an OCTA Research survey released on Tuesday.

Conducted on March 5 to 10, the poll found that only 26 percent of the 1,200 respondents got booster doses. Thirty-four percent, meanwhile, said that they “will surely get a booster shot vaccine.”

The rest were still undecided about getting boosted: 17 percent said they “will probably” get boosters and 10 percent said they were “not sure.”

Those most likely to snub booster shots were 7 percent who said they “will probably not” get boosted and the remaining 6 percent who “will surely not.”

Of those still undecided, 53 percent said that they were “not sure if it is safe,” while 35 percent said that additional vaccine doses or boosters “are not needed to combat COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, the majority or 67 percent of the respondents said they would still wear masks even if COVID-19 transmission has been controlled. Twenty-nine percent said they would stop wearing masks.

—WITH A REPORT FROM JANE BAUTISTA 

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