News Release

PH must fortify defenses against COVID-19 Omicron variant while cases are low, says health chief

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the National Task Force against Coronavirus Disease-2019 (NTF COVID-19) and medical experts on the new COVID-19 variant at the Malacañang Palace on November 29, 2021. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The government should intensify its major interventions against COVID-19 amid the threat posed by the latest coronavirus Omicron variant, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday.
During President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s regular Talk to the People on COVID-19, Duque underscored that vaccination, among two other interventions, would help the country’s fight against the looming threat of the Omicron variant, which was detected in multiple countries.

“It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ okay? It’s a matter of ‘when’,” said Duque when asked by President Duterte on the possibility of the Omicron variant entering the Philippines.

“So talagang iyan po, papasok ‘yan just as we have experienced with Alpha, Beta, Delta among the more compelling variants of concern, Mr. President,” he added.

Duque noted that despite the positive vaccination rate trajectory, the country needs to widen its vaccination coverage to achieve herd immunity and have an edge against the new coronavirus variant.

“Massive vaccination rollout under your directive, Mr. President, we need to really widen and increase the vaccination coverage to reach population protection,” he pointed out.

“Of course, the first milestone by the end of December 31st, we hope to be able to completely jab 54 million Filipinos and then by February of 2022, we should be able to realistically achieve 77 million Filipinos to be completely inoculated.”

Enforcement of the compliance to the minimum public health standards, including wearing face masks and reimposing mandatory face shield use as an added layer of protection, is another intervention that country needs to strengthen, said the health secretary.

“Ang talagang face shield ay under the three 3C — 3Cs context in the closed spaces, mga-face shield, in crowded areas, in close-contact settings just like in the transport sector where people as we have increased the carrying capacities of our public utility vehicles, I think now with the threat of this Omicron variant, it will be an added layer of protection that will really be good for the public,” he said.

He then emphasized the importance of strengthening and preparing the country’s health systems capacity for the worst-case scenario, adding that it is high time to ramp up preparations while COVID-19 cases are low.

“Let’s take advantage of our low number of cases and prepare the health systems capacity again for the worst-case scenario,” he said. PND