President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. answers questions from the media after his first Cabinet meeting at the Heroes Hall of the Malacañan Palace, July 5. — PHILIPPINE STAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Monday downplayed the effects of monkeypox, saying it is not as scary as the coronavirus.

“We don’t have any more cases of monkeypox,” he told a news briefing in Manila, based on a transcript sent by the presidential palace. “Monkeypox is not as scary as COVID. It’s like smallpox and there are medicines for it,” he added in Filipino.

The Philippines detected its first case of the monkeypox, which is now considered a public health emergency of international concern, last month. The patient has recovered.

Smallpox, an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, “was one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity and caused millions of deaths before it was eradicated,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said on its website.

“It is believed to have existed for at least 3000 years,” it said. “The last known natural case was in Somalia in 1977.” The WHO declared smallpox was eradicated in 1980. 

The country’s first case of Monkeypox was a 31-year-old Filipino who arrived from overseas on July 19.

The virus, which was first discovered in 1958, causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions, according to WHO. It spreads via contact.

Mr. Marcos said the government would strictly monitor the country’s monkeypox situation. “Right now, we are strictly monitoring monkeypox. We got used to COVID-19.”

Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said not all Filipinos need to get vaccinated against monkeypox, adding that high-risk people would be prioritized.

The global supply of vaccines that offer protection against the virus is limited, she pointed out.

“Monkeypox is not like COVID-19 that we need to vaccinate all Filipinos to prevent further transmission,” she told CNN Philippines.

Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos said the country’s coronavirus situation is much better than a year earlier. “Many people have been vaccinated already. The subject of the booster rollout actually came about because we were talking about the face-to-face classes this coming semester.”

The Philippines posted 24,100 coronavirus infections in the past week, with a daily average of 3,443 cases, according to health authorities.

The daily average for July 25 to 31 was 24% higher than a week earlier, the Health department said in a bulletin. Of the new cases, 76 were severe and critical.

It said 44 more deaths were verified in the past week, one of which occurred in June and 3 in January. There were no deaths from July 18 to 31.

The agency said 601 of 2,583 intensive care unit (ICU) beds had been used as of July 31, while 6,505 of 22,051 non-ICU beds were occupied. There were 744 severe and critical admissions, it added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza