Amid the rising COVID-19 cases, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Tuesday likened the more transmissible Omicron variant to a flu, saying that it does not hit as hard as compared to other variants.
During a Palace briefing, Marcos was asked if he had an immediate directive after the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday reported a total of 7,398 new COVID-19 cases from June 27 to July 3, 2022.
He then pointed out that the country still has the capacity to manage the new COVID-19 infections which now average to at least 1,057 cases per day.
“If we look at where we started, we still have the capability to handle the new COVID cases,” he said, indicating that the public is now learning how to live with the viral disease.
“Luckily, we should not look at the number of COVID cases in the same way as we looked at them in 2020 and 2021 because this is Omicron. Omicron is very different, it is a little contagious but it does not hit as hard,” he added.
Marcos said that Omicron-infected individuals are usually down for about two to three days only, in contrast with earlier variants such as Alpha and Delta.
“That's like flu. That’s like having flu,” he said.
In December 2021, the the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the Omicron variant, though causing mild symptoms, may still lead to death among immunocompromised individuals and the elderly. They said that such infections may still overwhelm hospitals in the country.
So far, the Philippines has detected 93 cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.5, 43 cases of the BA.2.12.1 subvariant, and three BA.4 cases.
Further, Marcos said that a third vaccine dose or booster shot against COVID-19 will be encouraged by his administration, particularly to ensure the safe resumption of face-to-face classes.
“With Omicron, you apparently need a third booster, a third dose. We will be encouraging that especially for younger people because again, we have to be concerned about their return to school,” he said.
“That’s the general policy. We will reinstitute again the vaccination drives so we could at least feel safer when the children go back to school,” he added.
In the same Palace briefing, Marcos said the Department of Education is looking to start face-to-face classes in some schools in September before holding 100% in-person schooling by November.
Currently, COVID-19 vaccination is not required among students who will participate in the in-person classes, but they are highly encouraged to do so.
DOH announced on Tuesday that all children aged 12 to 17, including the non-immunocompromised, can now receive their first booster shot against COVID-19 in their respective local government units. — RSJ, GMA News