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Experts say COVID-19 pandemic on its ‘endgame; NCR's cases might've already peaked

A group of health and economic experts on Tuesday expressed belief the COVID-19 pandemic is already nearing its end, and the coronavirus cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) might have already peaked.

Former National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 medical adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa said that COVID-19 is no longer considered as an emerging infectious disease today, thus the government should move forward and make more institutional arrangements in consideration to the current pandemic situation in the country.

This is in reaction to the Department of Health’s (DOH) plan to reconstitute the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and to only have member agencies with “relevant and intended functions."

“IATF’s concept is really in the beginning of an emerging infectious disease. I don’t think I can consider COVID today, after three years, still an emerging infectious disease. It’s just one of the diseases. In fact we have more dengue cases today,” Herbosa said during Pandesal Forum.

“I think we are in the endgame of the pandemic. It’s the third year. I really think that things have to come back to less temporary and more institutional arrangements,” he added.

Herbosa agreed that IATF should be streamlined and instead implement an "appropriate response" in dealing with the pandemic situation at the present.

This was echoed by former presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, stressing that the government should now focus on ramping up the booster coverage in the country.

“We’re in the endgame. We just have to accept the fact that in the end, people are just feeling more comfortable with Omicron and you don’t see people really dying like in Delta. You may see people with long COVID, yes, but people are just starting to get on with their lives. If you look at people in America, Europe, and other countries, they don’t really care anymore,” he said.

For their part, independent monitoring group OCTA Research reminded the public that despite this observation, the Philippines is still in the midst of a COVID-19 surge, thus the government should instead widen IATF and include independent scientists and experts from the private sector.

“OCTA is in agreement that we’re at the end stage given how the COVID has evolved with Omicron as a dominant variant that things are more manageable now, hospitals don’t seem to be overwhelmed and serious cases are very low,” OCTA Research fellow Professor Ranjit Rye said.

"But we’re still in the midst of a surge, we’re still in the midst of managing it. Unless there is an exit plan, and this is the challenge for the administration, I think we should agree with streamlining IATF and its functions, but we’re suggesting to expand its science advice,” he continued.

NCR already peaked?

Further, at a Laging Handa briefing, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said COVID-19 daily positivity rate in the National Capital Region (NCR) has decreased over the past two days from 14% on July 15 to 12.5% and 12% on July 16 and July 17, respectively.

He pointed out that should the NCR’s positivity rate continue to decrease, this may signal that the region might have already reached its peak.

“Sa Metro Manila, may possibility na baka nag-peak na. Paano natin nasabi ‘yan? Kasi ‘pag tinitignan natin ‘yung daily positivity rate, ‘yung pinakamataas noong July 15, at bumaba na noong July 16 at 17,” he said.

“Ang ibig sabihin kung magtuloy-tuloy ito, baka pababa na ‘yung trend natin sa Metro Manila. Hindi pa sa buong bansa necessarily kasi may mga regions pa na nagsisimula pa lang tumaas ‘yung bilang ng kaso,” he added.

(There is a possibility that NCR’S COVID-19 cases may have already peaked. Its positivity rate was the highest on July 15, and dropped on July 16 and 17. If this continues, our trend in Metro Manila may already be going down. This is not for the whole country because there are still regions where the number of cases is just starting to increase.)

The Philippines logged a total of 14,640 new COVID-19 infections from July 11 to July 17, 2022, around 44% higher than the cases reported the previous week, according to DOH.

At least 71.3 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while some 15.5 million individuals received their booster shots.—AOL, GMA News