QUEUE FOR JABS. Young vaccinees with their parents and guardians wait for their turn to get the first dose of the reformulated Pfizer Covid-19 jab at the Ugnayang La Salle gymnasium in Dasmariñas City, Cavite on Saturday (Feb. 19, 2022). Officials said inoculating children will allow the safe reopening of physical classes.(MNS photo)

MANILA, Feb 21 (Mabuhay) –Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said Sunday that he sees the decrease in the BA.1 and the BA.2 or Stealth Omicron infections and the increase in the administration of booster shots as possible indicators for the removal of face masks in the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sa akin ang palagi kong mino-monitor, itong BA.2 variant… even itong BA.1 variant ay talagang drastically bababa na, as in hindi na siya cause ng possible surge [in COVID-19 cases], siguro doon na,” he said.

Solante added that the BA.2 infection will subside if the number of people getting the COVID-19 booster shot goes up.

On January 25, the Department of Health (DOH) said that the BA.1 and the BA.2, two sub-lineages of the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, have been detected in the country.

“Base sa early data, itong BA.2, mas mataas ang hawaan nito, it’s 1.5 fold. Mataas ang hawaan nito kumpara do’n sa BA.1 and nakikita natin na based on this new data, baka meron din siyang tendency na pwedeng mas more severe,” Solante said.

“Pero ang nakitaan dito sa BA.2, aside from highly transmissible, ang ability niya to still infect even those vaccinated,” he added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said the country has already crossed past the crisis stage when it comes to the surge caused by the Omicron variant.

Solante however stressed that it is still vital to keep wearing face masks as it still gives high protection against COVID-19.

Maybe, the face mask is the last health measure that we will remove, he said in Filipino.

Earlier, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the mandatory use of face masks would “most likely” be dropped by the fourth quarter of the year.

However, Duque said he is not in favor of the lifting of the mandatory face mask policy anytime soon.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said masks may go by the end of the year, if COVID-19 cases are already manageable and the country reaches the endemic state.

DOH noted that 62.3 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing 69.8% of the 77-million target (MNS)

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