The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday backed the statement of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. that the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant may be “a little contagious but does not hit as hard" as other variants, saying it is supported by data.
This came after Marcos on Tuesday likened Omicron to a flu, amid the rising COVID-19 infections in the country in the past weeks.
“The COVID-19 Omicron variant, though transmissible, does not result in more severe and critical cases compared to other variants. Data do support the President’s observation,” the DOH said in a statement.
The DOH explained that only 3.09% of Omicron cases recorded in the country from December 2021 to February 2022 were severe or critical conditions.
It said such figure was less than half of the observed severe and critical cases for the Delta variant recorded from August to October 2021, which was at 8.72%, and the Alpha variant cases recorded March to May 2021 at 6.22%.
“Only 1.8% of Omicron cases became fatalities, versus 5.55% among Alpha and 4.9% among Delta,” the DOH said, noting that the two-month period for each variant of concern covered their peak of infections.
DOH on Tuesday reported that the total number of confirmed Omicron cases in the country is at 7,919, as more of its subvariant cases were detected in the latest whole genome sequencing.
The country’s COVID-19 caseload also went up to 3,710,145 on Tuesday, with 832 more new infections.
Despite this, Marcos said that the country “still has the capability to handle the new COVID cases,” but stressed that his administration will encourage the rollout of the booster shots for the adolescent population for their safe return to schools.
For its part, the DOH underscored the importance of maintaining the country’s wall of immunity by ramping up the inoculation of boosters for children aged 12 and above, and the primary vaccine series for kids aged 5 to 12 and senior citizens.
“Our high vaccination coverage and very good compliance with health protocols have helped keep case numbers low and the case severity manageable. However, we must not rest on these numbers,” the DOH said, reminding the public to also consistently comply with the minimum public health standards.
Based on the latest data, 70.8 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, some 15.1 million individuals have received their booster shots.
Several DOH officials on Wednesday morning met with Marcos to discuss the current COVID-19 situation and vaccination coverage in the country, and recommended strategies to further improve the government’s pandemic response. —KBK, GMA News