(UPDATE) WHILE the rise in Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila is “not alarming” to health experts, the outbreak of a new viral disease called “monkeypox” in parts of the world is enough for the government to warn the public against its spread if health protocols are ignored.
Monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a viral disease from animals and primarily occurs in the tropical rainforest of Central and Western Africa.”
Covid-19 cases down by 12 percent – DoH
He said that the smallpox vaccine, which has not been produced since the eighties, can be used to prevent a possible spread of monkeypox.
Herbosa said the country’s borders should not be closed even with the detection of monkeypox in other countries, noting that public health measures will be enough to prevent the spread of the disease without hurting the economy.
“Ang pagsara ng borders, malaki ang epekto nito sa turismo at ekonomiya at supply chain ng ating mga goods and services, [so] hindi tama na mag-close down (Closing the borders will have a huge impact on tourism, the economy, and the supply chain of goods and services, so it is not right that we close down),” Herbosa added.
500K active cases by May unlikely – OCTA
Meanwhile, the independent OCTA Research group downplayed the increase in the number of Covid cases in the National Capital Region (NCR).
OCTA said on Friday that cases in the region increased by 19 percent to 71 cases per day during the week of May 13 to 19, higher than the 59 daily cases the week before.
It also noted an increase in the average daily attack rate to 0.50 cases per 100,000 individuals, while the reproduction number increased to 0.9 from 0.76.
Herbosa, the special adviser for the National Task Force Against Covid-19, assured that there was no cause for alarm for as long as the source can be determined and to make sure that the infected are isolated to contain the spread.
Herbosa also said that the government aims to administer the second booster shots to about 12 million senior citizens and health care workers by the end of the month.
He urged the next administration to continue the national Covid-19 program blueprint implemented by the Duterte administration because it has been effective in containing the spread of the virus.
“Magbibigay tayo ng magandang operational plan at ang National Action Plan Phase 5, hopefully ‘yung susunod na administrasyon papalawakin pa [para sa] ating economic recovery (We will give a good operational plan and we hope that the National Action Plan Phase 5 will be continued and expanded by the next administration for our economic recovery,” Herbosa said.
Omicron subvariant detected
Even as health experts downplay the Covid increase in the NCR, a Filipino who arrived in the country from the Middle East last May 4 was found positive for the BA.4 sublineage of the Omicron variant four days after he planed in.
This comes amid the detection of other sublineages of Omicron, such as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, in the country.
No other details were shared except that he was asymptomatic.
“The immediate priority is to ensure the case has been cared for and his close contacts quarantined to interrupt transmission,” the DoH said.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has classified the BA.4 sublineage as a variant of concern due to its capacity to either spread faster or cause worse illness.
Early studies suggested that BA.4 transmits faster because of its ability to evade immunity provided by vaccines, especially for those whose protection had waned over time.
The DoH has coordinated with concerned local government units to implement detection and isolation activities, as well as seek out those unvaccinated and those eligible for boosters.
Ivermectin trials terminated
In a related development, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) said that it has terminated the clinical trials of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a possible cure for Covid-19.
According to Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, the decision was made upon the recommendation of the DoH and the DoST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development governing council in its meeting on May 11.
De la Peña cited delays in the submission of deliverables, lack of clinical benefits of ivermectin based on more recent clinical studies, the issuance of the recommendation against the use of the drug, and the availability of effective therapeutics for the early phase of Covid-19.
Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the clinical trials amid increased clamor by several lawmakers and groups who claimed that the anti-parasitic drug would be helpful in preventing early-stage