Philippines at high risk from COVID-19 — US CDC

THE US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has placed the Philippines along with two other countries under the high-risk category for the coronavirus.

In a notice posted on its website on Tuesday, the agency said travelers should avoid the Philippines unless they are up to date with their vaccines.

“Even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, you may still be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19,” it said. People with a weak immune system or are at increased risk for severe disease should “consider delaying travel to the Philippines.”

Also under the high-risk group are Nepal and Russia.

The Level 3 category applies to countries with more than 100 coronavirus infections per 100,000 population in the past 28 days.

CNN reported that places under Level 3 now account for almost 130 of the 235 places monitored by the US CDC.

The Department of Health (DoH) on Tuesday reported more than 1,000 infections involving Omicron coronavirus subvariants.

Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told a news briefing 1,011 more patients got infected with the BA.5 subvariant, 907 of whom have recovered.

She said all regions except the Bangsamoro in southern Philippines have at least one person who tested positive for the subvariant. Of the new BA.5 patients, 53 were still under isolation and two have died, she added.

Ms. Vergeire said 690 of the new BA.5 patients had been fully vaccinated, 12 were partially vaccinated and three have not received any shots. The vaccination status of the remaining 306 people was still being verified.

She also said 19 more people got infected with the BA.4 subvariant, 15 of whom have recovered. Three were still under isolation and one died.

Ms. Vergeire said 12 of the new BA.4 cases were from Soccsksargen, three each from the Bicol region and Western Visayas, and one from the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Of the new BA.4 patients, 13 had been fully vaccinated and one was partially vaccinated. The vaccination status of the remaining five was still being verified.

Ms. Vergeire said severe and critical cases were fewer than 1,000. “However, a continued slow increase has been observed since early July.”

The government had fully vaccinated 72.1 million Filipinos as of Aug. 15, while 17 million people have received their first booster shot, Ms. Vergeire said. More than 1.8 million people have received their second booster shot.

She said DoH has allotted a budget for the purchase of new-generation coronavirus vaccines that are formulated to counter the more contagious Omicron subvariants.

These new vaccines could build immunity against different mutations of Omicron subvariants, she pointed out. Once they become available, they must go through the emergency use authorization process, she added.

Meanwhile, businessman Jose Maria A. Concepcion III said the Philippines should boost its stock of antiviral medicines as part of its pandemic management.

“Antivirals are a way forward considering how vaccinations are going right now and how we have seen cases come and go,” he said in a statement. “We need to bring in antiviral medicines to build up our defenses against COVID-19.”

The supply of the two antivirals — Molnupiravir and Paxlovid — has been unstable due to rising coronavirus infections in the country, Mr. Concepcion, who is a member of the Private Sector Advisory Council, said.

He also said the government should buy vaccines that target both the original COVID-19 strain and more infectious Omicron variants.

The businessman said the private sector is ready to enter into tripartite deals to address regulatory issues.

“The private sector is prepared to step in and enter into another tripartite agreement as it did in 2020,” he said. The arrangement allowed the Philippines to overcome regulatory roadblocks when the Food and Drug Administration had yet to approve the coronavirus vaccines, he pointed out.

The Philippines posted 28,008 coronavirus infections in the past week, with a daily average of 4,001 cases, the Health department said on Monday. The daily average from Aug. 8 to 14 rose by 3% from a week earlier, it said in a bulle-tin.

DoH said it had verified 229 deaths in the past week, 98 of which occurred from Aug. 1 to Aug. 14. Of the new cases, 101 were severe and critical.

It said 719 of 2,571 intensive care unit (ICU) beds had been used as of Aug. 14, while 6,781 of 21,968 non-ICU beds were occupied. There were 882 severe and critical admissions, it added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave