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COVID-19 won’t disappear soon, says WHO Western Pacific director

The virus that causes COVID-19 will not go away soon, the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Western Pacific office said Wednesday amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Dr. Takeshi Kasai described the Delta variant as a “real threat which is testing the capacity of even the strongest public health systems in our regions.”

“Even with all our best efforts, it now seems clear that, globally, the virus will not disappear. At least, not in the near future,” he told a news conference.

Kasai noted that the Delta variant has led to a faster clustering of COVID-19 cases within households.

The WHO official stressed that the best way to “live with the virus” is through vaccination and other similar preventive efforts, including responding to upticks in cases with “targeted” measures.

Meanwhile, Kasai also said the Philippines is “one of the countries in the region facing this surge” driven partially by the Delta variant.

“We know lockdown alone cannot really reduce the transmission down and so it is very important to identify and know where the infections are occurring and suppress that,” he said.

Kasai also acknowledged government efforts to increase the country’s healthcare capacity and the high vaccination rates among health workers and the elderly.

“What is important is actually not just beds but to make sure there [are] doctors and nurses and also there is sufficient equipment and also support to those working very hard,” he said.

The Philippines has tallied over 1.8 million COVID-19 cases with more than 1.7 million recoveries and 32,264 deaths as of August 24. 

The capital region of Metro Manila and Laguna province will be under the second-strictest lockdown classification (modified enhanced community quarantine) until August 31 in a bid to stem the spread of the Delta variant. 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that under MECQ, indoor, al fresco dine-in services are prohibited.

Personal care services including beauty salons, beauty parlors, barbershops and nail spas are not allowed in the metropolis, Laguna and Bataan, he added.

Likewise, religious gatherings are limited to virtual activities. — RSJ, GMA News