Filipinos have to continue abiding quarantine protocols and wearing of face masks and face shields to prevent a second wave of infections with the Delta variant, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said Monday night.
In a meeting on government’s COVID-19 interventions, President Duterte said all safety measures must stay in place to prevent community transmission of the Delta variant which has the potential to cause a second wave of infections in the country, being four times more contagious than the original virus.
“So I cannot afford to place the nation, the national interest of the Republic by just, you know, sometimes adopting this and being lenient to this. I said, I know that it is a very tedious, if you may, but it is really to prevent a disaster of our nation,” he said.
Noting how other Filipinos have expressed hope to go mask-free, the President said the country may not be ready to do away with both face masks and face shields, saying that it’s a small inconvenience and a “very small price to pay” rather than risk a second wave of infections over the Delta variant.
The initial coronavirus surge in the Philippines exhausted the country’s resources, he said, noting why the government is doing all it can to prevent a second wave of infections from happening.
According to the President, a second surge would be disastrous for the country.
“Iyong nangyari sa ating, ‘yong first wave, it has depleted really the resources of government. Now, another one would be disastrous for this country. That is why the stricter you are, the better,” he said.
On the other hand, Task Force on COVID-19 Variants member Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, who was also present during the meeting, cited several studies that prove the use of face shields can prevent 78 percent of infections by blocking droplets or aerosol particles from entering the eyes.
For example, a study conducted in India revealed that health workers who didn’t use face shields while going house-to-house in communities got infected with COVID, while those who used face shields while performing house-to-house tasks remained healthy.
Likewise, the Ong-Lim said several studies also determined that the use of face masks can reduce up to 85 percent of COVID-19 infections; while physical distancing can help reduce infections by 82 percent.
“Wala pong nag-iisang intervention na puwede pong magbigay ng buong proteksyon. But of course, ‘pag pinagsasama-sama po natin ‘to nakakatulong. And this is what we advise in our minimum public health standards as necessary for mitigation of transmission of COVID-19,” she said.
Moreover, Dr. Edsel Salvana said in order to protect Filipinos from the Delta variant, arriving individuals must abide the “10 plus 4” quarantine strategy of government, noting that this quarantine setup has been scientifically proven to reduce coronavirus infections.
The 10 plus 4 strategy requires people to undergo 10-day quarantine in a government facility upon arrival and spend 4 days home quarantine right after, while testing is done on the 7th day, he said.
According to the health expert, the Delta variant can infect up to eight persons in contrast to the original virus which could only infect two individuals.
“The Delta variant is really very scary and this is all the more reason why we should police our borders po kasi it only takes one variant to get in and then puwedeng mag-India-like surge po tayo kasi mataas po talaga ‘yong number of people na kayang i-infect ng isang taong mayroong Delta variant,” he said.
Loosening quarantine protocols has been proven to cause a surge, Salvana said, citing the case of Taiwan who faced a surge in infections despite initially managing COVID-19 well, after shortening the quarantine period of their pilots from five to three days.
Salvana noted that 17 persons have arrived in the country with the Delta virus but the existing quarantine protocols have prevented its transmission.
“Our quarantine recommendations are going to protect our borders,” he stressed.
The health expert also noted that individuals who have received only one shot of the vaccine may still get infected by the Delta variant. PND