World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe (File photo)

MANILA – Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Philippines, on Monday said the surge of Covid-19 cases in a country is attributed to “multiple factors” and not dependent on the government’s pandemic response.

In a virtual Palace press briefing, Abeyasinghe said the population size, testing capacity, and health systems capacity also affect the decline or surge of infections and these differ from one country to another.

“So, what will be more accurate is to look at the incidence rates or the number of cases per 100,000 or 1 million population, this would be going to point where the Philippines actually is. But again, there are multiple factors that affect the transmission in a country because countries are different from each other,” Abeyasinghe said.

He explained that the Philippines is not the only country that has seen a significant increase in cases in the past two weeks, citing the confirmation of three variants of concern in the country,

"I would want to reiterate the fact that the Philippines is not unique in seeing an increase, and this increase is not attributed in any way to incompetence," he said. "And I would also like to highlight that we are even seeing this increasing trend even in countries that are doing an extensive vaccination."

Abeyasinghe emphasized the need for the Philippines to continue investing in preparedness and response capacities on the ground and urged the public to observe minimum public health standards which are “adequate to interrupt transmissions when implemented fully.”

Abeyasinghe cited the optimism on the arrival of vaccines and gradual rollout of vaccination program as another contributory factor as it led to the reduction to the compliance with the minimum public health standards on the parts of the citizens.

He mentioned the optimism on the part of local governments and authorities “where they have relaxed the implementation and monitoring of the minimum public health standards oftentimes because their attention was focused on preparing for the rollout of vaccines.”

“So all of these measures have contributed in varying degrees in different countries to the increase of cases we are seeing," he added

He emphasized the need to continue to invest and works towards strengthening the country’s preparedness and response capacities on the ground especially to strengthening diagnostic; reduce the time required for diagnostics; only contact tracing, quarantining, and isolation of infected people or exposed people; ensuring that adequate health care capacities are available to manage patients particularly those patients who developed severe disease because of they are of advanced age or comorbid conditions; adequate risk communication to the public about where is the transmission happening, which situations need to be avoided; and the vaccine rollout – the most important thing.

“All of these coming together will help us address the surge,” he said. (PNA)