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PH must boost immunity before lifting COVID restrictions: DOH

Shoppers walk around the Divisoria market in Manila on November 14, 2021.  Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File
Shoppers walk through Divisoria market in Manila on November 14, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) said the Philippines would gradually follow the United States’ model of easing COVID-19 restrictions.

The DOH official in charge, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, said the country is taking the same direction as the US, where the health system will only “protect the most vulnerable”.

“We are here to live with the virus because we know the virus will stay. Ang importante saating lahat, and I think the US government also has such a goal that we protect the most vulnerable, we will protect our health care so that the system does not become overloaded, and try to limit as many serious and critical cases and deaths as possible to prevent,” said Vergeire last Friday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had previously recommended lifting the following restrictions: physical distancing, quarantine and testing for asymptomatic patients with no exposure.

It has also recommended limiting contact tracing to medical workers and other high-risk environments.

The CDC said the United States is now in better shape to protect the public from severe COVID-19 infection.

While the easing of restrictions does not mean the end of the pandemic, it is intended to help the public return to their normal lives without having to worry about the coronavirus.

“We are in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools — like immunizations, booster shots, and treatments — to protect ourselves and our communities from serious illness from COVID-19,” Greta, CDC Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch director, said Massetti .

“We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing quality masks, testing and improved ventilation. These guidelines recognize that the pandemic is not over yet, but also help us get to a point where COVID-19 is no longer seriously disrupting our daily lives,” she added.

For Vergeire, the Philippines must increase its immunity before lifting restrictions. But for now, she said, the DOH is pushing for individual responsibility among Filipinos to protect everyone.

According to the latest DOH data, 72 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, of whom 17 million have received their booster shots.

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