Shoppers head to Divisoria, Manila, Dec. 26, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/WALTER BOLLOZOS

THE WESTERN Pacific Region, which covers the Philippines, posted a more than 90% decline in reported coronavirus infections from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19 amid a decline in testing output, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

In its latest COVID-19 report, the international body said the region saw a 94% decline in its reported cases and a 77% decrease in deaths. 

Globally, nearly 5.3 million new cases were reported from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19, an 89% drop from the previous 28 days, it said. 

More than 48,000 new deaths were also reported during the Jan. 23-Feb. 19 period, a decline of 62% compared to the previous 28 days, it added. 

As of Feb. 19, more than 757 million confirmed cases and more than 6.8 million deaths have been reported globally, WHO said.  

Current trends in reported COVID-19 cases are underestimates of the true number of global infections and reinfections as shown by prevalence surveys,it said. This is partly due to the reduction in testing and delays in reporting in many countries. 

The global body said data presented in its latest report may be incomplete and should, therefore, be interpreted with caution.”  

Additionally, data from previous weeks are continuously updated to incorporate retrospective changes in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths made by countries.”  

On Wednesday night, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus called on countries to boost surveillance and sequencing so that as the virus evolves, vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics can be evaluated and updated quickly as needed.”  

As of Feb. 21, more than 66,000 Filipinos have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic struck in 2020, according to a recent report from Manilas health agency. 

Meanwhile, a senator has filed a bill to establish a virology institute in the Philippines, noting the need for increased research and development on virology and infectious diseases. 

The Philippines continues to face challenges in responding to public health emergencies,Senator Manuel LitoM. Lapid said in Filipino in a statement on Thursday.

Therefore, as a region known to be a hotspot for emerging infectious diseases, including pandemics, the establishment of a research institution focused on virology research is essential to better prepare our country against such health calamities,” he added.

If passed, Senate Bill 1890, otherwise known as the Virology Institute of the Philippines Act, will allow Filipino researchers to conduct studies on emerging infectious diseases as quickly as possible, the senator said. 

The bill will require the government to invest more in research advancement, develop a secure national research framework, improve public awareness on similar initiatives, and develop stronger international collaboration. 

A counterpart bill in the House of Representatives was approved on final reading in December. Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan