President Rodrigo Duterte (MNS photo)

MANILA, Dec 22 (Mabuhay)–President Rodrigo Duterte is wary that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will trigger another surge in cases which will in turn cause the need for more government spending.

In his Talk to the People on Tuesday, Duterte again said that government funds were already depleted due to the country’s COVID-19 response.

“Let me be frank to the public, depleted na talaga ang pera ng Pilipinas even coping up with the growing expenses for typhoon victims,” Duterte said referring to the need for relief operations in areas hit by Typhoon Odette.

“Baka makalusot ang Omicron earlier than expected. ‘Yun ang takot ko. It would require huge expenditure again to meet the challenges of the new variant,” he added.

He asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III if the Philippines will survive an Omicron-driven surge.

Duque said the country will be able to survive because of compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols.

“I think so because as I have said earlier the very good compliance of our people to the minimum public health standards yung public health and social measures, we should be able to contain this,” said Duque.

He cited countries in Europe which removed the face mask policy which caused an increase in cases there.

Duque also said the Philippines was “consistent” in the minimum public health standards policy.

“But I think the Philippines is unique because we have kept our consistency in terms of your constant reminder to our people really serves us very well. This is why we have not reached a very high or extremely high number of cases,” said Duque.

Other nations record about 40,000 to 50,000 new infections per day but the Philippines only registered 26,000 in September.

Duterte once again defended the use of the face shield, attributing it to the decrease of infections.

“That shield will add another layer of protection… Continue using it,” Duterte said.

“I advise you because I really firmly believe that wearing the face shield has contributed  a lot. I cannot quantify or by what percentage but just a gut feeling kasi tayo mababa na tayo. I’m really surprised,” he added.

Duque said that massive vaccination and following public health standards would prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

“Those are the two important components and the key to win the war against the pandemic, variants and all, and we learned our lessons from other countries,” Duque told Duterte.

“Even the United States now ang taas ng kanilang kaso. Several states have been reported to have the Omicron variant,” he added.

For his part, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Omicron’s spread could be prevented through giving additional doses, citing that it would address the breakthrough infections.

Galvez said that this was also how Israel solved breakthrough infections of vaccinated individuals.

“I believe we can prevent Omicron if we really massively vaccinte particularly A2 and A3 with our boosters,” Galvez said.

“Sa Israel, nung sila po ay inatake at nagkaroon ng maraming breakthrough, ang nakasalba po sa kanila ay yung boosters,” he added.

Galvez also recommended that the whole of Metro Manila and individuals who were fully vaccinated in April to July must also receive boosters.

The national government had already approved a shortened interval of COVID-19 boosters shots from six to only three months. (MNS)

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