The COVID-19 cases in the Philippines are still manageable despite the slight increase in the positivity rate, infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said on Friday.
Solante explained that the country is still in stable condition despite the recent increase in cases.
“The fact na wala tayong signals na mapupuno ang mga hospitals and in fact, if you look at the data maski tumataas na ang mga kaso, hindi rin tumataas ang namamatay, hindi rin tumataas ang nagsesevere COVID, at hindi rin tumataas ang napupunta sa hospitals,” Solante said in the public briefing.
(The fact that we have no signs that hospitals will be filled. And if you look at the data, even though the cases are increasing, the deaths are not increasing. The severe COVID-19 cases are not increasing, and the number of people going to the hospitals is not increasing either.)
“These are good signs, why? That means even if there is an increase in cases medyo kaya ng katawan natin (our bodies can handle it) at the same time, hindi kagaya nung meron tayong (unlike when the) Delta was the variant of concern. In short, in general, our cases are manageable and it has not been causing disruption in our life,” he added.
Data from OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David showed that the Philippines’ positivity rate — or the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested — went up from 11.7% on April 25, to 12.9% on April 26.
Solante also said that the rising cases may be possible due to the recent detection of the first case of Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, dubbed “Arcturus.”
“Based on World Health Organization (WHO) classification, itong XBB.1.16 has a growth advantage so ibig sabihin mas mabilis siyang dumapo sa katawan natin because of the mutations sa spike protein, ibig sabihin mas mataas ang hawahan at pangalawa in populations na maski nakatanggap na ng bakuna it can still bind to our tissues, so ibig sabihin pwede pa rin tayong madapuan ng infection,” he said.
(Based on the WHO's classification, this XBB.1.16 has a growth advantage. This means that it spreads faster because of the mutations in the spike protein. It means more infections, and second, even in populations that have been vaccinated, it can still bind to our tissues. So that means we can still get an infection.)
“That is the reason why that in some countries na mayroong XBB.1.16 nakita doon na tumataas bahagya yung kaso. Ang importante lang dito I think in those countries na marami ng kasong nakikita there were no signals na this virus or variant of interest ay pwedeng magcause ng severe COVID. So most of the cases are mild,” he added.
(That is the reason why in some countries that have XBB.1.16, cases were seen to increase slightly. However, the important thing here is, I think, in those countries with increased cases, there were no signs that this virus or a variant of interest caused severe COVID. So most of the cases are mild.)
According to Solante, the symptoms of Arcturus are also similar to other COVID-19 variants. However, some patients in other countries had sore eyes.
The Department of Health earlier announced the detection of the first case of Arcturus — a variant under monitoring by the WHO and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) — in Region 6.
The infectious disease expert, meanwhile, encouraged the public to continue wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the viral disease.
Solante said the decline in COVID-19 deaths globally may be due to the increase in vaccination rates and the presence of antiviral agents.
“The fact that the Omicron variant only infect the upper respiratory tract and less cause severe infection so malaking bagay din yon na humihina ang bangis ang virus ng COVID. pangalawa, I think yung vaccination natin tumataas din there is still ample protection, there is still antibody and that antibody and protection prevent the infection from going into severe form,” he said.
(The fact that the Omicron variant only infects the upper respiratory tract and causes less severe infections, that is a major factor why the COVID virus is weakening. Second, I think our vaccination rate is also increasing. There is still ample protection, there are still antibodies, and that antibody and protection prevent severe infections.)
“There are also interventions like the presence of antiviral agents that, more or less, people can get access. So that when they will have symptoms they will not be able to proceed to the severe infections. So these are all the three important aspects why we were able or the significant number of deaths is low for the past months and yung hospitalization rate and yung severe COVID is also low,” he added.
The WHO earlier reported a decline in new COVID-19 cases and deaths globally.
The WHO said nearly 5.3 million new infections and more than 48,000 deaths were reported from January 23 to February 19, a decrease of 89% and 62% respectively, compared to the past 28 days.
Meanwhile, over 757 million confirmed cases and over 6.8 million deaths have been reported globally as of February 19. — DVM, GMA Integrated News