(MNS photo)

MANILA, Mar 1 (Mabuhay) –The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday clarified that the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet in endemic state in the Philippines despite the de-escalation of several areas, including the National Capital Region (NCR), to Alert Level 1.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Philippines is at a level where it is transitioning to the “new normal.”

“Gusto ko lang din ho ipaliwanag sa ating mga kababayan, hindi pa rin ho tapos ang pandemya. Hindi pa rin tayo dumadating doon sa sinasabi nating endemic state,” Vergeire said at the Palace briefing.

NCR and over 30 other areas in the country will be under Alert Level 1 from March 1 to 15, 2022.

Vergeire said the alert level may be upgraded again should cases and hospital utilization rates increase.

“So ang atin pong pagbabantay, pag nakita nating tumataas ang kaso — mas naka-focus tayo sa severe and critical — at kung paano po napupuno ang ating mga facilities, and that would be the signal for us to escalate,” she said.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said that the government may shift its focus from COVID-19 numbers to the utilization rate in hospitals if most of the cases recorded nationwide and globally continue to be mild.

Based on metrics

Vergeire also said that the de-escalation to Alert Level 1 is based on metrics. These include case trends, healthcare utilization rate, and vaccination rate.

“Dahil naniniwala po tayo na kapag ang tao po o mga tao sa isang lugar ay bakunado, mas nako-control po ang transmission ng sakit,” she said.

(Because we believe that if the public or individuals in an area are vaccinated, we can control the transmission of the virus.)

The Health undersecretary also urged the public to self-regulate and comply with minimum public health standards.

NCR not complacent

Meanwhile, Vergeire said it cannot be said that the public has become complacent, especially those in NCR.

Vergeire said NCR had a total population target of 11.3 million out of 80 million Filipinos, of which 11.5 million have been fully vaccinated.

She added that almost 85% of senior citizens have been vaccinated while around 96% of individuals with comorbidities have been inoculated.

“Kapag tinignan natin ‘yung datos ng NCR, I think it is not really complacency pero kailangan lang natin talaga suyudin itong ating komunidad sa NCR para makita pa natin ‘yung iba nating nakakatanda na maaring hindi na nakakalabas ng bahay,” she said.

(When we look at the data in NCR, it’s not really complacency. But we need to visit communities in NCR so we can see seniors who can no longer leave their homes.)

She issued the remark when asked if the public has become complacent even as some seniors and individuals with comorbidities in the NCR are not yet fully vaccinated.

Vergeire also urged the public to get booster shots.

“Nasabi na po ng ebidensya, nasabi na po ng siyensa, kailangan po natin ng additional dose o booster para mabigyan po tayo ng appropriate at adequate na protection laban sa variant na ito,” she said, referring to the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant.

(Evidence has already shown that we need an additional dose or a booster dose so we can receive the appropriate and adequate protection against the Omicron variant.)

She said the government’s new target for COVID-19 vaccination is 80% of the eligible population or around 100 million.

As of February 21, more than 63.1 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the illness while over 10.1 million have received booster shots.(MNS)

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