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5 provinces breach COVID-19 benchmark in positivity rate

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The COVID-19 positivity rate in five provinces was more than 20 percent while the National Capital Region’s (NCR’s) rate remained higher than 10 percent, the independent monitoring OCTA Research Group said on Sunday.

GET THAT JAB. The government continues to ramp up its vaccination drive as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Scientists have encouraged people to take a second booster shot when offered as the most contagious strain of Omicron is driving a new increase in cases globally. Norman Cruz

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David, in a tweet, said that Aklan’s positivity rate increased from 26.9 percent on July 9 to 31.9 percent on July 15.

The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 in relation to the total number of individuals tested.

Other provinces seen surpassing the 20 percent benchmark are Tarlac (27.5 percent), Pampanga (23.5 percent), Nueva Ecijia (22.9 percent), and Laguna (22.55 percent), he said.

“In provinces where the positivity rate is very high, i.e. above 20 percent, the public is strongly advised to practice necessary caution to prevent COVID infection,” David said.

David said that the positivity rate in the NCR also jumped from 10.9 percent on July 9 to 12.6 percent on July 15.

Aside from the NCR, he noted that Antique, Bataan, Bulacan, Capiz, Cavite, Iloilo, Isabela, Pangasinan and Rizal all recorded a positivity rate of over 10 percent.

An infectious disease expert had warned the public against “vaccine complacency” and urged them to get COVID-19 booster shots.

Many Filipinos have yet to receive their booster shots, said Rontgene Solante, a member of the government’s vaccine expert panel (VEP).

Solante said the slow momentum in the government’s booster program is rooted in the view that new infections are just mild.

“What we are seeing here is that because the symptoms are mild and the hospitals are not filling up, we have what we call vaccine complacency,” Solante said in Filipino on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo. “But that should not be our attitude.”

Solante emphasized that immunity provided by vaccines dwindles over time.

Data show that protection against the severe form of COVID-19 derived from booster shots lasts about eight to 10 months, Solante said.

“What’s important for the general population is to receive the first booster,” he added.

A second booster shot can now be offered to the general population for added protection.

At present, Department of Health (DOH) guidelines say that only health workers, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are allowed to get a second coronavirus booster shot.

But Solante said if there are sufficient vaccine doses, there is no reason not to give a second booster to anyone who wants it.

On the other hand, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer-in-charge at the DOH, said local government units should stick to the guidelines and not give second boosters to the general population.

But scientists in other countries are urging people to take a second booster shot if they get the chance because the most infectious strain of Omicron is driving a fresh surge of cases around the world.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control this week expanded eligibility to the over-60s and vulnerable people of any age, citing the rise in the numbers needing treatment in hospital and intensive care.

In Britain, a second booster dose was offered to people aged over 75 years, care home residents, and those with weakened immune systems. Australia has expanded the second booster to those over-30, while the US is reportedly looking to expand the current eligible group from the over-50s to all adults.

Over the weekend, the Supreme Court reintroduced reduced on-site work at its offices in Manila until July 31, following an increase in the positivity rate of COVID-19 in Metro Manila.

In a memorandum order, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said that in certain offices, only 50 percent or 80 percent of total personnel are allowed to report physically for work.

However, 100 percent of personnel are required to report physically in the SC’s Fiscal Management and Budget Office, Office of the Bar Confidant, Office of Administrative Services, and in the maintenance, security and motor pool sections.

The order also mandates that 80 percent personnel are required to report on-site in the Docket and Receiving Section of the Judicial Records Office, procurement and property division, and in the Office of the Court Administrator, which is engaged in processing clearances and payment of utilities.

In all other SC offices, 50 percent of personnel are required to report on-site.

On Saturday, President Marcos reiterated the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and boosters, which he said were key to his recovery after contracting the virus for a second time.

“This is the second time I tested positive for COVID. And were it not for the vaccine and booster, I’m sure my condition would have been worse,” the 64-year-old Marcos said.

But Marcos clarified he is not making booster shots mandatory.

“We do not need to mandate this because we are free to choose for our own health,” he said.

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