SENATOR Leila de Lima urged the government to ensure preparedness on the possibility of further COVID-19 surges due to future variants.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said the government should always prepare for COVID-19 surges to avoid more fatalities and suffering.
“Huwag naman na sanang lumala pa ang kasalukuyang pandemya o magkaroon pa ng mga bagong COVID-19 variants. Pero ngayon pa lang, mas maigi nang laging handa ang gobyerno, pati na ang susunod na administrasyon, sa ganitong mga posibilidad o sa anupamang krisis na maaaring mangyari sa hinaharap,” she said.
“Government should always prepare for COVID-19 surges like a major disaster response. Enough portion of the budget must invariably be identified for addressing all pandemic-related programs.
There must be budget always for continuous vaccination, testing, contact-tracing, isolation, social amelioration and livelihood assistance for those affected,” she added.
World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently cautioned against a narrative that the fast-spreading Omicron variant is risk-free, stressing that “this pandemic is nowhere near over.”
He further warned that “with the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge.”
As the virus mutates, De Lima said the government should be ready to procure and effectively roll out improved vaccines as soon as they become available.
“We must keep up with the latest scientific developments and best practices for us to finally put an end to this pandemic,” she said in a recent Tweet.
The WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition said last Jan 11 that, “A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.”
The expert group, which is assessing the performance of COVID-19 vaccines, said that, in order to more effectively deal with emerging variants such as Omicron, new vaccines must be developed.
De Lima stressed that region-wide lockdown should be avoided as much as possible in favor of more localized lockdowns.
“Also we must encourage continuous local production of medicines, medical and personal protective equipments. Sa tamang paghahanda—sa maagap, responsable at siyentipikong pamamaraan na hindi idinadaan lang sa dahas o padalos-dalos na pasya, uusad pa rin ang ekonomiya habang tumutugon sa pandemya,” she added.
The lady Senator from Bicol stressed that everyone should do their part in ending this pandemic, especially by observing all reasonable measures, including getting vaccinated and the recommended booster shots, to avoid unnecessary deaths, suffering and further rounds of widespread lockdowns.
“Let us all act responsibly. Be mindful of the symptoms. Isolate. Get a test or not, but isolate whenever there is even the slightest chance that you are carrying the virus. Contact trace on our own volition. Vaccinate if medically possible. Basically, have a care for others,” she said.
It can be noted that even though data indicate that existing COVID vaccines are less effective in protecting against Omicron transmission than against previous strains, the WHO Chief maintained that it remained vital to ensure broader, more equitable access to the jabs.