THE PHILIPPINE government is unlikely to revive restrictions despite a World Health Organization (WHO) decision to keep the highest alert for the coronavirus, a Health official said on Tuesday.

“We abide by the global declaration of a public health emergency,” Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told a news briefing. But the country doesn’t have to impose restrictions, she added.

“In totality, we are better prepared.”

The WHO on Monday said the coronavirus remained a public health emergency of international concern.

The pandemic is probably in a “transition point” that needs careful management to “mitigate the potential negative consequences,” it said in a statement. 

Ms. Vergeire said the WHO had said in a report that it was having a hard time analyzing the COVID-19 situation across the world due to scarce reports from different countries.

The Philippines, for one, no longer has an “official monitoring system” for the coronavirus,” she said. Many countries including the Philippines now use rapid antigen and self-test kits whose results are not reported.

“Now, some countries resorted to waste water surveillance,” Ms. Vergeire said. “But not all countries can do that because that will require resources.”

Wastewater surveillance involves the sampling and testing of untreated wastewater and sewer sludge for fragments of noninfective traces of SARSCoV-2, its so-called genetic fingerprint.

Ms. Vergeire said the Philippines would rely on hospital data in determining its COVID-19 situation.

While the Philippines is unlikely to revive COVID-19 restrictions, it would “remain cautious and vigilant because of the different variants being detected and the case increases across the world,” she said. 

The Philippines posted 1,206 coronavirus infections in the past week, with a daily average of 172 — 36% lower than a week earlier. Of the new cases, only one was severe and critical. There were 74 new deaths, six of which occurred on Jan. 16 to  29.

The Department of Health (DoH) also said there were 456 severe and critical admissions in the country as of Jan. 29. The country’s intensive care unit bed use was 14%, with 330 out of 2,359 ICU beds occupied.

In its report, WHO said health systems are “struggling with COVID-19 and caring for patients with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, health workforce shortages and fatigued health workers.”

Vaccines, therapeutics and various medical tools have been critical but too many countries are “unable to provide these tools to the populations most in need, older people and health workers.”

It also said the coronavirus pandemic “may be approaching an inflection point,” noting that the disease might no longer be as dangerous today as it was in 2020, the year it began to spread quickly around the world.

“Long-term public health action is critically needed,” it said. “While eliminating this virus from human and animal reservoirs is highly unlikely, mitigation of its devastating impact on morbidity and mortality is achievable and should continue to be a prioritized goal.”

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has yet to appoint his Health secretary.

Ms. Vergeire said she’s now ready to take the helm of DoH. “I am now ready to be appointed, if and when that would be his decision.”

Ms. Vergeire said she would tell the president about her intention. “He doesn’t need to approach me and ask me to be the Health secretary.”

The OIC, who had been with DoH for three decades, had said she wanted to work at the agency even after her six-year term as secretary ends — if the president chooses to appoint her. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza