By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – The slight increase in the number of Covid-19 cases is due to the holiday season when reunions among friends and families abound, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday.

Saying Covid-19 is now just one of the illnesses that cause respiratory tract infection, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa described its most recent variants of interest as similar to common coughs and colds unlike previous ones that cause severe pneumonia.

“Yes, there’s a slight uptick. Yes, some hospitals napuno ‘yung Covid-19 beds pero ang context nun kumonti na ang Covid-19 beds kasi (have their Covid-19 beds in full capacity but the number of Covid-19 beds has decreased),” Herbosa said in a media forum at the PICC in Pasay City.

“Kasi maraming party, maraming family reunion, maraming tao sa shopping mall, maraming tao sa public places (There are parties, family reunions, there are many people in shopping malls and public places),” Herbosa said.

Earlier, the DOH reported an average of 260 cases per day for the week of Dec. 5 to 11, a 36-percent hike from the previous week’s average of 196 cases per day.

This is the first time in five months since the DOH has logged over 200 new cases of Covid-19.

Thirteen of the total 1,821 cases logged for the week of Dec. 5 to 11 were tagged severe or critical.

“There are some hospitals na nag-implement na ng stricter masking. But that doesn’t mean magre-require ang DOH na dito mag-mask tayong lahat (that already implemented stricter masking. But that doesn’t mean that the DOH will require everyone to wear masks),” Herbosa said.

“It’s only because, ikaw bisita ka sa ospital, eh dumadami na ang Covid cases, baka mahawa ka (you’re a hospital visitor, Covid-19 cases are increasing, you might get infected). It’s for your protection that they’re telling you to wear mask,” he added.

When asked about the procurement of more Covid-19 vaccines, Herbosa disclosed that the DOH did not include it in their budget.

“Because the vaccines remember are still experimental, so we’re still awaiting their final registration before we procure them and even the assessment of our health technology,” he said.

The Philippines was offered by the COVAX Facility a donation of one million doses of monovalent XBB vaccines.

“I’m accepting it in tranches of 500,000 para magkaroon din tayo ng access (so we can also have access),” Herbosa said.

These vaccines would be allotted for senior citizens and individuals with comorbidities as they are at high risk of being hospitalized for severe Covid-19 infection. (PNA)