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NTF adviser: COVID-19 surge possible in next 2 months due to elections, religious gatherings

A government adviser on Saturday warned of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in the next two months due to huge events, such as the May elections and religious events like Ramadan and Holy Week.

"We have the campaign period in politics, elections, and we have religious events like Ramadan and mass gatherings. All of these are what we call 'high-risk events' for superspreaders," National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 medical adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa said at the Laging Handa briefing.

Herbosa pointed out that during Ramadan, Muslims eat together at night, while Catholics go to the provinces during Holy Week to see their relatives.

Political rallies meanwhile are mass gathering events in which attendees sometimes forget to wear their face masks properly.

"Magandang reminder ito sa atin na puwede talagang tumaas ang mga kaso (This is a good reminder for us that COVID-19 cases could rise) in next two months," Herbosa said.

Despite the plateauing of COVID-19 cases, Herbosa explained that a surge was still possible.

"Pwede pa ring mangyari ang surge natin, 'yan nga 'yung cycle natin for the past na every three months, tumataas ang cases natin. So parang January, February tayo, talagang due for another surge or outbreak," he said.

(A COVID-19 surge could still happen, that was our cycle in the past where cases are increasing every three months. So it was like January or February, we're due for another surge or outbreak.)

"I think mahirap mag-relax. Ako, cautiously optimistic. Sana hindi na bumalik dahil sa mataas na vaccination rate natin sa Metro Manila, pero siyempre posible pa ring mangyari 'yan sa ibang parte ng Pilipinas," Herbosa added.

(I think it is difficult to relax. I am cautiously optimistic. We hope a surge would not return due to our high vaccination rate in Metro Manila. But of course, it's still possible in other parts of the country.)

Herbosa said the Philippine government had so far not yet identified a case of Omicron XE, a possible new coronavirus variant linked to but is 10 times more transmissible than Omicron.

Also interviewed at the Laging Handa briefing, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David reiterated that COVID-19 cases might rise after Eleksyon 2022.

"May possibility yan, in fact may uptick na nakikita sa ibang bahagi ng bansa, pero maliit pa naman itong mga uptick, hindi pa naman naka-aalarma. Sa Central Luzon at sa Northern Mindanao may nakikita tayong uptick. Pero very low risk pa rin naman sila... ayaw pa naman natin magkaroon ng false alarm," he said.

(There is a possibility. There were upticks seen in other parts of the country, but these upticks are still minimal, not yet alarming. We saw an uptick in Central Luzon and Northern Mindanao. But the areas are still at very low risk ... we do not want to raise a false alarm.)

David said information on the Omicon XE was still limited as Philippine experts continue to conduct their study on the subvariant. — DVM, GMA News