President Rodrigo Duterte is worried about the possibility of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 causing another surge in infections as he urged the public to continue using face shields.
“My only concern is if it would be as bad as the previous viruses already…You know, somehow here, I’m just fearful. You know, I’m nervous because—let me be frank to the public, the Philippine funds are depleted, even coping up with the growing expenses for the typhoon victims,” he said in his regular Talk to the People late Tuesday evening.
Duterte encouraged the public to keep using their face shields on top of their face masks, even if they were no longer mandatory in areas under Alert Level 2.
“Honestly, I think, the compliance of our citizens in the matter of strictly enforcing the masks, one. And when somebody — while it might not really be a well-studied proposition but I would dare say that that shield will add another layer of protection in addition to the [masks],” he said.
He said he “firmly believed” that face shields helped lower the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“I really firmly believe that the wearing of that face shield has contributed a lot. I cannot quantify or by what percentage but it’s just a gut feeling…we only have a few cases now,” he added.
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 earlier said it was eyeing the reimplementation of the mandatory face shield policy to help fight the spread of new COVID-19 variants.
On November 15, Duterte lifted the mandatory use of face shields and only made them voluntary in areas under Alert Level 1 to 3.
The face shield policy is left to the discretion of local government units (LGUs) and private establishments in areas under Alert Level 4.
Only areas under Alert Level 5 and closed, crowded, and close contact (3Cs) such as hospitals and other medical facilities, are required to use face shields.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., meanwhile, said the key message was not to underestimate the Omicron variant, as he detailed government measures to ramp up preparations for the new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant.
“The message is: one, preparation is very key. So we have to revisit the national government and LGU playbook,” said Galvez, who is also the chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
Another measure is sustaining stringent border control, he said, adding that the country’s current capacity must also be reevaluated.
Mandates on masking, mass testing, contact tracing, and isolating suspected carriers must also be intensified. These measures should be done simultaneously with a massive vaccination drive, Galvez said.
Meanwhile, the country logged on Wednesday 261 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,837,784, as two laboratories were not operational and 12 were not able to submit their data on time, the Department of Health said.
The DOH also reported 122 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 50,916.
Active cases stood at 9,238, of which 507 were asymptomatic; 3,153 mild; 3,400 moderate; 1,801 severe; and 377 critical.
In related developments, presidential candidate and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso has mobilized offices under the city government to ramp up preparations for the possible surge of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in the country.
Domagoso met with Manila Health Department director Dr. Arnold Pangan and the directors of the six city hospitals and COVID-19 Field Hospital to map out the necessary strategies to fight the more infectious COVID variant should it find its way into the capital city.
“We have to prepare since Omicron could be worse than Delta. We should have sufficient hospital beds and medicines. We need to speed up our vaccination, including opening booster shots for everyone qualified after their second dose,” the mayor said.