The Department of Health (DoH) on Sunday said the country’s healthcare system is ready against the possible surge of infections brought by the newly detected Omicron variant.
“We are ready. We know what to do if ever the highly-transmissible Omicron reaches the country,” DoH Undersecretary and Treatment Czar Leopoldo Vega said in a radio interview.
Initial information about Omicron describes it as a variant that has the ability to have at least 50 mutations to the spike protein, the structure of the virus that binds to cells.
However, Vega said that experts are still trying to get more information about the new strain which was first detected in South Africa.
“We do not yet know its behavior despite the mutations. So we are preparing with or without a variant of concern,” he said.
More than a year into the pandemic, Vega said the government is now more prepared to handle situations like these.
“We now know how to deal with Covid-19, particularly in terms of our healthcare utilization or in healthcare facilities,” he added.
Covid referral hospitals ready
The country’s Covid-19 referral hospitals are now gearing up for a possible surge of infections amid the threat of the newly-detected variant.
The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and Lung Center of the Philippines, two of the main Covid referral hospitals in the country, said they are ready to convert their non-Covid wards to cater to more patients should cases begin to rise again.
In a radio interview, PGH spokesperson Jonas del Rosario said the hospital is willing to open their Covid wards and close the non-Covid ones to focus on Covid-19 patients.
Del Rosario added that the hospital will do the same strategy it has done in past surges, in case Omicron reaches the country’s borders.
“Like in previous surges, we’ll open the Covid wards, close the non-Covid wards and realign manpower. We’re used to those kinds of operations so the transition will be fast,” he said.
The statement came after the PGH, the country’s largest referral center for Covid-19, announced that it is planning to lessen the number of wards allocated for Covid-19 patients as cases continue to decrease.
Del Rosario said the hospital had no new Covid-19 cases for two consecutive days and was catering to only 54 Covid-19 patients compared to more than 300 patients during the surge in infections in August.
He added the hospital is expecting that hospital admissions as well as the number of Covid-19 patients will further decrease in the coming weeks.
“Double digit numbers are really rated occurrence in PGH but now we are really going to the 50s, and who knows maybe in the next few days or weeks, we will be down to 20s,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lung Center of the Philippines spokesperson Dr. Norberto Francisco said the hospital is prepared in case Covid-19 infections rise anew.
He said the hospital has already instructed and trained their staff, and it also has enough supply and equipment in preparation for the possible increase in the number of hospital admissions.
The statement came after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III warned of possible surge in infections in February or March due to the emergence of Omicron variant as well as complacency of the public to health protocols.
“It has been recycled. The (surge) started in March and April last year. It went down in July-August. So, March, April, May, June, July, August — four months,” Duque said.
“From September, October, November, December, January, February — two weeks in February, the cases increased again; it was our second wave. Then, from February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September — September, we had a surge again,” he added.