DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES (27 April 2022) — A possible surge in the country’s COVID-19 cases may happen in the middle of May following the mammoth crowds drawn by campaign rallies and the emergence of Omicron sub-variants in different parts of the world.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s Talk to the People public address on Tuesday, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said the country is closely monitoring three Omicron variants.

“During our regular T3 meeting, Father Nick Austriaco presented the emergence of three Omicron variants: two from South Africa and one in the US,” Galvez said.

“He predicted that with these variants, at least one or maybe all of these variants will hit the Philippines,” he added.

According to Galvez, experts have noted that the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron monitored in South Africa and Europe are the emerging variants of concerns that can lead to a global economic downturn and renewed travel restrictions.

He added these variants can cause an uptick in COVID cases in the Philippines in the next two to four weeks as predicted by experts.

“Inuulit po namin na very imminent na po na tataas ang ating mga kaso at very vulnerable ang mga hindi pa bakunado dahil 95% po ng namamatay ay unvaccinated,” Galvez said.
“‘Yung mga nabakunahan na ng second dose na mahigit na 3 buwan ay vulnerable na rin dahil bumababa ang bisa ng bakuna pagdating ng panahon, kasama na ang BARMM area at Region 12 at mga lugar na mababa ang coverage.” he added.

Expansion of eligibility for 2nd booster

Galvez noted that the government is relying on the strong support of the public for the national vaccination program in order to encourage unvaccinated individuals to have themselves inoculated and get their booster shots.

The vaccine czar is referring to the survey conducted by Octa Research from March 5 to 10, 2022, showing an 83% approval rating for the government’s pandemic response and an overwhelming 91% willingness rate of Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are sustaining the momentum of the vaccination program and we intend to use this opportunity to inoculate more Filipinos and prevent another surge of infections and unnecessary fatalities,” Galvez said.

In line with this effort, Galvez recommended hastening the approval of second booster shots for more population sectors to further expand the country’s vaccination coverage.

Currently, only immunocompromised individuals are authorized to receive a second booster shot, three months after their first booster.

“Because of the current urgency of the situation, we are appealing to the HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Council) to expedite the inclusion of health care workers, seniors and other vulnerable sectors para po mapataas significantly ang ating bakunahan,” Galvez said.

“HTAC/FDA should also look and include the seafarers, OFWs and uniformed personnel to be included in the priority due to their long duration deployment to risk and vulnerable areas,” he added.

As of April 26, only 2,108 individuals have received the second booster shot.

A total of 146,227,002 doses have been administered nationwide. Of this number, 67,640,431 individuals are fully vaccinated. ###