The Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday that there is no increase in COVID-19 cases in the country, assuring the public that it is closely watching the situation particularly after Singapore confirmed they are conducting research on COVID cases.

“We don’t have an increase in COVID cases. Singapore reported another variety of Omicron, but it’s still mild and there are no deaths reported. So, we just have to watch out for it,” Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said in a Palace press briefing following a sectoral meeting with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

“The 390,000 that we have, we are just hoping that the fact that most Filipinos are completely vaccinated for COVID, symptoms will be mild and this new variety is also like upper respiratory infection. So, we will watch it.”

Asked if Filipinos who were not able to receive the bivalent vaccine shot will get a chance for free shots from the government, Herbosa there is a new vaccine that is out called monovalent XBB that appears to do well with the recent COVID-19 variants than the bivalent vaccines.

The new vaccine was announced by Moderna in the US, Herbosa said, adding that based on current assessments, the bivalent is not as effective, “because the bivalent also increases your antibodies to the original, not the later ones.”

“So, parang 70 percent of the antibodies triggered or still the older ones. So, in that case, it doesn’t really protect you from the newer variant. So, they changed again their formula and created monovalent XBB. We will still think whether we will need that, depending on our increase in cases,” Herbosa said.

“The people who will need now, because the symptoms of Omicron and XBB are mild, we think that the people who will need the vaccinations will be elderly and immunocompromised or with comorbidities,” he added.

The health chief said the DOH will have to study the recent developments as well as the advice of health experts. The agency will also look at what other countries are doing and what the World Health Organization (WHO) will recommend. 

Herbosa also advised the public to be more cautious especially with the change in weather, noting the Epidemiology Bureau has been monitoring the increase of influenza-like illness.

“Iyong parang trangkaso at parang tumaas nga, there are some schools that converted to online blended learning because of the number of students. So, it’s really the time during the rainy season where respiratory illness increases kasi nga sarado ang bintana, we are in enclosed spaces and people can really get infected,” Herbosa said, encouraging people to get the flu shot. 

“We have flu shot at the Department of Health. So, if you are high risks especially elderly and senior citizens – magpa-flu shot kayo; and then, kung kayo ay may sakit, may respiratory illness – ubo, sipon, sore throat – it is better to stay at home than infect all other colleagues in the office or in the school. So, very important iyong self-protection.” | PND