The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) “may not go away that quickly,” thus, urging countries to continue in improving its responses against the pandemic.

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“Given (that) the virus is circulating around the world, this may not go away that quickly and therefore, the government is going to deal with the multiple surge and we have to find a sustainable way of intervening in that,” said WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai in a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Kasai highlighted the importance of vigilance in detecting cases early and doing “targeted response.”  It is also equally important to increase health system capacity, including the conduct of a “rigorous contact tracing.” He also asked the countries to continuously encourage their people to practice protective behaviors. 

“I know everybody is tired but continue to encourage people to take healthy behavior such as washing of  hands, having masks, or keeping a physical distance,” said Kasai. 

“We continue to advocate that the people would take their role, practicing healthy behavior. This is a virus transmitting from human to human. It is the people’s behavior (that) can change how this outbreak would happen,” he added. 

This was also echoed by WHO Country Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe. 

“As the WHO has been saying from the beginning of this outbreak, in the absence of the specific therapeutic agents or vaccines, we need to implement a comprehensive response that includes solidarity across regions, across cities, across countries,” said Abeyasinghe. 

“We need to ensure that besides the  non-pharmaceutical interventions, we need to have in place mechanisms for early diagnosis, contact tracing, and management of positives by early isolation and quarantining of close contacts,” he added. 

‘Room for improvement’

Abeyasinghe, meanwhile, recognized the Philippine government’s efforts in improving its responses against the health crisis, but noted it should still improve its contact tracing initiatives. 

“So when we look closely at the situation in the Philippines, the Philippines has done a lot of those things but there’s still room for improvement on the harmonized speedy contract tracing and management of close contacts and early isolation of positives,” said Abeyasinghe. 

“As the government continues to improve its response, there are now measures in place to strengthen these aspects and we believe that —that is now contributing to the gradual decline in transmission,” he added. 

The Philippines Department of Health on Tuesday recorded 2,093 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country’s caseload to 326,833. Of the total, 47,655 are active cases or patients currently ill. 

It also noted that most of the new infections were still detected in the National Capital Region with 557 cases. The DOH also announced that 209 more patients have recovered while 25 more people died, raising the tally of recoveries to 273,313 and deaths to 5,865. 

The surge in the number of cases is also happening to other countries, said Dr. Babatunde Olowukure, WHO Regional Emergency Director for the Western Pacific.

“I think what we need to understand or what we need to recognize is that these challenges are not unique to the Philippines. Other countries are also in a similar position,” said Olowukure. 

In order to suppress the virus, “there must be a number of control measures which are all implemented together or at same time in conjunction with each other,” said Olowukure. 

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