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A Record Virus Surge in the Philippines, but Doctors Are Hopeful

Health officials say recent infections have been milder than those seen in previous waves, though they are still urging caution.

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By Sui-Lee Wee and Camille Elemia

The Philippines is grappling with a Covid-19 surge that has accelerated at a pace not seen since the start of the pandemic. But fewer people are severely ill than in previous waves, an encouraging sign for countries bracing for a similar rise in cases.

The government said last week there was a “very high” likelihood that the Omicron variant had fueled the latest outbreak, which began after the Christmas and New Year holiday period, though sequencing results have also shown that the Delta variant is still spreading in the country.

What is clear is that infections appear different. Hospitals are not yet overwhelmed. Patients are showing up at health care facilities with other illnesses and then learning they have the coronavirus. People are recovering faster.

The outbreak in the Philippines adds to a growing body of evidence worldwide that the Omicron variant may not be as deadly as feared , especially among the vaccinated. Still, experts are urging caution.

Already, the surge has caused a run on medicines, and the rapid transmissibility of the virus could create new opportunities for more dangerous mutations to spread. Hospitals could be crushed in a country with one of the lowest vaccination rates in Asia, a region that is still bracing for its first wave of Omicron infections.

“This is really different, a different surge compared to Delta,” said Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Unit at the government-run San Lazaro Hospital in Manila. “Here you have a high number of cases, but the hospitalization rate is still manageable.”

The trend, if sustained, offers a glimmer of hope for the Philippines, one of the Asian countries hardest hit by the pandemic. It shut schools for 20 months and imposed one of the world’s longest lockdowns , exacerbating widespread poverty. More than 52,900 people in the country have died from Covid-19.

Last Wednesday, Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, the under secretary of health, said at a news briefing that the government would tweak its policies on controlling Covid, given evidence that Omicron is a more transmissible yet milder strain of the virus.

Starting last Thursday, contact tracing efforts were rolled back. Testing will focus on diagnosing people at risk, such as seniors and those with comorbidities. People with symptoms will be encouraged to isolate immediately. The government said it has shortened the isolation period for vaccinated people infected with Covid to seven days, down from 10 days.

The rules are being relaxed even as the virus is still circulating at a ferocious speed. The latest data on Monday showed that the test positivity rate has exceeded 46 percent. This means nearly one in two of those tested are turning up positive for Covid-19. Cases are doubling every three to four days, according to government data.

The number of active Covid-19 cases in the Philippines hit 290,938 on Monday, a record, and sharply up from 10,095 a month ago. Health experts say the true number is far higher because the government does not count antigen rapid tests in its tally. What gives them hope is that many patients seem to be recovering quickly.

Two days after returning from a vacation with her family to the city of Olongapo, Cai de Leon came down with a cough and a fever. Her blood pressure started climbing. On Jan. 3, she checked herself into the hospital after her oxygen level dropped to 94. She had Covid.

Ms. de Leon, who lives in Manila, had been vaccinated with China’s Sinovac and a Moderna booster shot. At the hospital she received Molnupiravir, an antiviral treatment made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and was discharged after four days in the hospital.

“I’m still in isolation and I still have a terrible cough, but I’m already out of the woods,” said Ms. de Leon, 37. “If I didn’t have those vaccines, I’d fear for my life.”

Though Ms. de Leon, like many patients, was treated quickly, hospitals are on edge. Thousands of health care workers are falling ill. Nurses and doctors who test positive must quarantine for at least five days, overburdening an already stretched health care system. The government said this week that 8 percent of the country’s health care workers have had to be quarantined or hospitalized because of the virus.

The number of hospitalized children is up between 30 percent and 40 percent compared with September 2021, when the Delta variant ravaged the country. In Manila, parents are struggling to get fever and cough medicines before pharmacies run out. Last Monday, the government announced plans to begin vaccinating children younger than 11.

The Philippines has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Asia , having fully inoculated only about 50 percent of its population. Health experts warn that when many people are infected, there are more opportunities for the virus to mutate, potentially becoming more dangerous. Hospitalizations could accelerate, especially in provinces with lower vaccination rates.

Dr. Jose Rene De Grano, president of the Private Hospitals Association, said there were initial reports of a rising number of cases in hospitals outside Metro Manila, including North Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. “Although the symptoms are milder, it should not make us complacent,” Dr. De Grano said.

“Even though we think that this infection is milder, especially in vaccinated people, we still have to do our darn best to slow it down, so that it doesn’t mutate so fast,” said Dr. Edsel Salvana, an adviser to the Philippine government on Covid-19. “Then it’s going to be a different story again.”

Despite the outbreak, the number of people with severe illness has not increased in the Philippines. In the Metro Manila region, where more than 96 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, the government said the number of severe Covid cases has fallen to around 20 percent of total cases. The number of mild and asymptomatic cases is now around 60 percent.

Doctors in Manila report that one of the starkest differences between the new infections and those in previous Covid waves is the clear lungs that they detect in X-rays and CT scans. During the previous Delta surge, patients showed up with what doctors called “burned out lungs.” Many required ventilators to breathe.

The spokesman for the Philippine General Hospital, Jonas del Rosario, said only a few Covid-19 patients being brought to the hospital’s emergency room these days have respiratory problems. “Now, we can hardly see patients who need to be intubated or put on oxygen,” he said at a press briefing earlier this month.

Dr. Salvana, who is also an infectious disease specialist, said he saw one recent patient in his late 80s who was infected with Covid. He had weak lungs and a history of pneumonia, but when his doctors conducted a CT scan, they found that his lungs were clear.

“We were going: ‘What?’ The radiologist was saying: ‘This can’t be right,’” Dr. Salvana said.

On Jan. 3, Rogeselle Monton, who has H.I.V., came down with a case of Covid-19. He developed a sore throat, cough and a cold, and was hospitalized on Jan. 7 after discovering blood in his stool. He was later diagnosed with pneumonia.

Mr. Monton, 30, had received two shots of AstraZeneca, and a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine in December. “Maybe if I were not boosted, my condition might have been worse,” he said.

After determining that Mr. Monton’s oxygen level was stable, doctors last week gave him the green light to go home.

Sui-Lee Wee is the Southeast Asia Bureau Chief for The New York Times. She was part of the team that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in public service for coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. More about Sui-Lee Wee

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COVID-19 pandemic: Latest situation in the Philippines – August 2022

COVID-19 pandemic: Latest situation in the Philippines – August 2022

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Philippines remains at low risk for COVID-19, though Metro Manila is already back to moderate risk as cases rise.

How is the Marcos administration addressing the health and economic crisis? What are the key developments on the global front that also impact Filipinos?

Bookmark and refresh this page for the latest news updates, opinion articles, and analysis pieces about the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines.

LATEST UPDATES

Metro manila remains under alert level 1 until august 31 – doh.

Metro Manila will remain under Alert Level 1 from August 16 to 31, according to the Department of Health (DOH). 

Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) de-escalated Occidental Mindoro and Camarines Sur to Alert Level 1, which will also last until August 31. The task force also de-escalated the alert status of Poro in Cebu, Talalora in Samar, and Binidayan and Pualas in Lanao del Sur. 

According to the DOH, the de-escalation was due to the areas maintaining their case classification and total beds utilization rates at low risk, and reaching or nearing the vaccination thresholds for the target population and target A2 (senior citizens) priority group.

Senate on ‘total lockdown’ over COVID-19 cases

Senate President Jose Miguel “Migz” Zubiri announced on Friday, August 19, that the Senate building will be on “total lockdown” to facilitate the full disinfection of the facility after several senators and Senate personnel tested positive for COVID-19.

“I have instructed the Secretariat to conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfection of all Senate offices. For this reason, there will be a total lockdown of our Senate building and all Senate employees shall work from home and need not report to the Senate on Monday (22 August 2022). Senate sessions will resume on Tuesday (23 August 2022),” he said.

Read more .

COA: Gov’t hospital in Palawan should refund overcharged COVID-19 patients 

COA says the Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital overcharged COVID-19 patients by P5.27 million for the cost of PPEs, and by P227,417.70 for medicines.

Marcos eyes extension of state of public health emergency in PH till end-2022

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a media interview on Wednesday, August 17, that he would “likely” extend the declaration of a state of public health emergency in the country due to the pandemic until the end of 2022.

Marcos told the media that he considered this after discussions with the Department of Health office in charge, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who informed him that countries under such a declaration get a lot of assistance from the international medical community as well as the World Health Organization.

“At kung itigil natin ‘yung state of emergency, matitigil ‘yun (If we end the state of emergency, that too will stop),” he said, referring to the assistance.

Marcos noted that while the government is looking at “amending the law in terms of procurement and all of that in the middle of an emergency,” this will take time. “So malamang (likely) will extend it (state of public health emergency) until the end of the year.”

President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines in March 2020, following the confirmation of the local transmission of COVID-19 in the country.

DOH plans to set up more vaccination sites in schools

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday, August 16, that it planned to open more vaccination sites in schools for the safe return of students to their campuses for in-person classes.

So far, the government has set up 3,131 vaccination sites in schools across the country.

“We’re going to add more for our vaccination sites to be visible so that we can further encourage our mothers to have their children vaccinated,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters. 

DOH bulletin: COVID-19 cases as of August 14, 2022

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DOCUMENT: Requirements for passengers arriving in the Philippines, as of May 30, 2022

DOCUMENT: Requirements for passengers arriving in the Philippines, as of May 30, 2022

DOH setting up wastewater testing to trace COVID-19 infections

The Department of Health has begun setting up systems to test wastewater to trace where COVID-19 infections come from, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing on Tuesday, August 9.

Vergeire said that this was a method used to trace infections when the Philippines dealt with a polio outbreak in 2019. “We were able to see the sources of infection and immediately determine the areas which were at high risk because of this testing for wastewater,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“So it will be the same for COVID-19. It’s going to be part of our regular surveillance, where we will be testing wastewater so that we can identify areas who are really at risk of having this cluster of infections of COVID-19,” she added.

Other countries have used the wastewater testing method, such as  Italy .

Philippines ‘exploring’ procurement of next-generation COVID-19 vaccines

The Philippines is “exploring” the opportunity to procure next-generation COVID-19 vaccines specifically targeting Omicron, Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday, August 9.

“The Philippines is going to explore that possibility. We are preparing, and we are going to procure kung  saka-sakaling lumabas na siya  (if it is released),” she said in a press briefing.

Vergeire said the department has made a budget recommendation to allocate funds for the next-generation vaccines. They would still need to go through the processes other vaccines went through before they were administered to the public, including an assessment from the country’s vaccine expert panel.

The next-generation vaccines currently produced by Moderna are “bivalent.” This means they can target both the original version of COVID-19 and its Omicron variant. 

Less vaccine wasted if those with comorbidities got 2nd booster earlier – expert

“There was some element of delay on the part of the DOH to implement the second booster for those with comorbidities,” says infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante.

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Building a Better Normal under COVID-19: Harnessing Digital Technologies in the Philippines

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E-commerce activities in the Philippines accelerated during the pandemic.

Gato Borrero/World Bank

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in February 2020, containment measures made digitalization essential for economic and social resilience. The Philippines, unfortunately, has not been able to leverage digital technologies to their full extent because of poor access to affordable and high-quality internet and long-held analog practices. Consumers experience slower download speeds and pay more than many of their ASEAN peers. These gaps contribute to a digital divide in the country with about 57 percent of households not having internet access in 2018, and thus, unable to reap the benefits of digitalization. This analytical report articulated this digital divide in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, that has contributed to unequal access to services delivered via the internet. For example, the shift to remote learning has left poorer children with limited internet access falling behind their wealthier, more connected counterparts. Moreover, work-from-home arrangement has been difficult for workers with unreliable internet connection.

A World Bank team embarked on a study to assess the state of the digital economy in the Philippines, identify the key challenges to digital adoption, and provide policy recommendations to improve the enabling environment. The study deep dived into the key areas of the digital economy including on digital infrastructure, digital payments, logistics and taxation, and the business environment. Policy dialogues and dissemination activities ensured that the recommendations reached the relevant government counterparts.   

The multifaceted nature of the digital economy required close collaboration with different government stakeholders. Effective client relation led to the establishment of the Philippines Digital Economy Steering Committee in early 2019. The committee consisted of representatives from key government agencies to lead cross-agency coordination and the clearance of the report’s recommendations. Direct engagement with the steering committee raised the likely implementation of the policy recommendations.

Sharing drafts with counterparts ahead of the report’s completion signaled the urgency of the digitalization agenda. Dissemination also included roundtable discussions and bilateral dialogues, which contributed not only to new engagements, but also provided an opportunity to obtain feedback on preliminary findings. The report was jointly launched by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority, bringing together a diverse set of audiences including the public sector, private sector, development partners, academia, and civil society. 

The effective partnership between the World Bank and the Philippines Digital Economy Steering Committee, coordinated by the National Economic and Development Authority, delivered notable results:

  • Informed government’s policy actions. Poor digital performance indicators are tied to the inadequacy of the country’s digital infrastructure. To address the gap, the study recommended the promotion of common infrastructure sharing and improving the ease of doing business. In May 2020, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) issued a circular on the co-location and sharing of passive telecommunication tower infrastructure for macro cell sites. Four months later, the initiative was complemented by the joint memorandum circular on the streamlined guidance for the issuances of permits, licenses, and certificates for the construction of shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructure. These policy developments resulted in the DICT issuance of provisional certificates to 23 independent tower companies in September 2020.
  • Institutionalized initiatives beyond the report delivery. The report informed government plans and programs such as the logistics part of the Department of Trade and Industry’s E-commerce Philippines Roadmap 2022. Likewise, the joint World Bank-Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) measured the size of the digital economy, and came up with a methodology to capture the digital economy from the system of national accounts. The exercise built capacity for the PSA to conduct the measurement itself.
  • Opened new areas for Bank engagements. Select chapters of the report contributed to new engagements including a just-in-time support on taxation of e-commerce in the Philippines, a review of the status of government digital platforms, and a Digital Philippines Advisory Services Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS).  The report also provided inputs on the competitiveness pillar of the second operation of the Philippines Promoting Competitiveness and Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters Development Policy Operation series. 

Bank Group Contribution

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) financed the analytical study with a resource envelope totaling US$336,883 spread over two years.

The Philippines Digital Economy Report 2020 was undertaken in collaboration with the Philippines Digital Economy Steering Committee consisting of key government stakeholders including the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine Competition Commission, Philippine Statistics Authority, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Moving Forward

Supporting the growth of the digital economy has emerged as a key priority of the government, where the collaboration with the World Bank continues beyond the publication of the report.

  • The chapter on digital infrastructure contributed to dialogues that resulted in a two-year Digital Philippines Advisory Services RAS with the DICT. The RAS program covers digital government implementation options, legal and regulatory framework review, digital workforce analysis, and a digital Philippines monitoring and evaluation framework.
  • Following the joint work on measuring the size of the digital economy, the PSA plans to institutionalize the digital economy measurement initiative to become part of its regular work program.
  • As a follow up to the report, a World Bank team plans to conduct a technology adoption survey of firms to understand the extent, opportunities, and challenges of firm usage of digital technology in the Philippines.
  • There are other concurrent World Bank studies and operations with digital angles and components such as the Philippines Customs Modernization project which looks into the automation of customs’ systems and processes, and the Philippines Beneficiary FIRST Social Protection project which looks into digital tools to transform social protection delivery in the country.
  • The report has been discussed with development partners, garnering support for the initiatives in this space. This can open up further opportunities for collaboration and support to the government in pursuing their digital transformation initiatives.

“This Philippines Digital Economy Report launch comes at an opportune time as the country navigates through the pandemic. […] We really needed to fast-track these reform agenda.  As relevant as this report is given the current environment, what is more anticipated are the subsequent public and private endeavored initiatives that will lay down the fundamentals to allow for an accelerate digital transformation in the country.”  - Dr. Rosemarie Edillon, Undersecretary for National Development Policy and Planning, National Economic and Development Authority , during the launch of the Philippines Digital Economy Report

  • Full Report: Philippines Digital Economy Report 2020 : A Better Normal Under COVID-19: Digitalizing the Philippine Economy Now
  • Press Release: Harnessing Digital Technologies Can Help Philippines Overcome Impact of Pandemic, Hasten Recovery National Economic and Development Authority
  • Infographic: In a world of shocks, going digital would help the Philippines

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Health systems impact of covid-19 in the philippines, recommended.

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Lockdowns and policy actions to curtail the transmission of COVID-19 have widespread health system, economic, and societal impacts. Health systems of low-to-middle-income countries may have fewer buffering resources and capacity against shocks from a pandemic. This paper presents a preliminary review on the collateral health systems impact of COVID-19 in the Philippines through review of academic and grey literature, supplemented by a qualitative survey. Community quarantines alongside transport and boarder restrictions have universally impacted health service access and delivery, affecting patients requiring specialist care the most. Existing record-keeping and surveillance measures were hampered as existing resources were tapped to perform COVID19-related tasks. Local health systems reinforced gatekeeping mechanisms for secondary and tertiary care through referral systems and implemented telemedicine services to reduce face-to-face consultation. The health system impacts in the Philippines have been variegated across municipal income class and topography, contributed by long-standing symptoms of inequitable resource allocation.

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Junctures in the time of COVID-19: Topic search and government's framing of COVID-19 response in the Philippines

Rogelio alicor l panao.

University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines

Ranjit Singh Rye

This article argues that, like many in Southeast Asia, the Philippine government's COVID-19 response was marked by policy experimentation and incremental adaptation, having been caught off-guard by the pandemic. Examining 16,281 government press releases related to COVID-19 issued by the Philippine News Agency between February 2020 and April 2021, we find that in its policy narratives the government panders initially to citizen demand, highlighting social amelioration as a pandemic strategy. However, as citizens’ economic anxiety further intensifies, the government's framing of the crisis response becomes pragmatic and turns towards promoting mass inoculation, ostensibly in a bid to convince citizens to choose health over short-term palliative economic measures. The findings nuance policymaking in an illiberal democracy, beyond the conventional populist description of seeking easy solutions or spectacularizing crisis response.

Just as prospects were getting rosy for the Philippine economy, bad news arrived. On January 22, 2020, the first COVID-19 infection in the Philippines was detected in two Chinese nationals visiting the country ( Edrada et al., 2020 ). On February 2, 2020, the first confirmed death due to the virus was reported ( Marquez, 2020 ). By March, the virus had taken the lives of 24 more additional patients and brought the number of cases to 380. By April that year, confirmed cases in the Philippines were running up to four digits.

The government's immediate response to the pandemic focused on minimizing its socioeconomic impact and restarting the economy. For instance, on March 23, 2021, Congress passed Republic Act 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, granting the president, inter alia, temporary emergency powers to impose community lockdowns and providing cash assistance to displaced workers and low-income families. Essentially a “social amelioration initiative,” the Bayanihan Act was a direct response to the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations ( Vallejo and Ong, 2020 ) to an economy thrown into its worst recession since the Second World War. While there were variations in subsequent implementing policies, within government the consensus seemed to have been towards balancing economic growth with public health. However, by the end of the first quarter of 2021, amidst a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases, the government's official policy response took a complete turn towards procuring ample vaccines and inoculating the public.

What causes policy response to turn from palliative interventions to pragmatic options? For resource-challenged governments conveying their policy narratives to the public in response to crises, what motivates the choice between economic viability and securing vaccines? Can citizens’ interest in an event or crisis spur policy learning amidst a lack of adequate opportunity to establish a response strategy?

This article argues that, like many in Southeast Asia, the Philippine government's COVID-19 response was marked by policy experimentation and incremental adaptation, having been caught off-guard by the pandemic. While it is well known in the public policy and political science literature that public opinion can shape public policy ( Wlezien and Soroka, 2016 ); the bulk of the literature is usually in the context of interest groups, political parties, and elites, not ordinary citizens, and not with respect to experiences outside the USA ( Burstein, 2003 ). As for the policy implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the other hand, the growing and emerging body of research is largely focused on epidemiological aspects such as the spread of the disease and compliance to health measures ( Brodeur et al., 2021 ). There is also scant scholarly introspection on causal explanations pertinent to the governance component of pandemic policies beyond an organizing framework ( Maor and Howlett, 2020 ).

Using the dynamics of the Philippine government's COVID-19 response as a case study, we argue that citizen concern on economic dislocations during the pandemic has a dynamic effect on how the government frames contentious policies whose redistributive implications can undermine government legitimacy. As anxious citizens seek information on the pandemic, the government panders to what it believes to be a response desired by the public and frames its COVID-19 policy around social assistance as a defining narrative. However, as mounting anxiety reveals the public's uncertainty with concurrent policy, the framing of the crisis response becomes rational and shifts towards the promotion of more viable options, such as mass inoculation. To support our conjecture, we analyzed 16,281 press releases on COVID-19 issued by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) between February 2020 and April 2021, and juxtaposed them with citizens’ COVID-19-related search interest based on Google Trends. Utilizing topic modeling and econometric techniques, we find that the government panders to citizen demand for economic safety nets in its policy narratives but only up to a point, and ultimately shifts to promoting mass inoculation as economic anxiety worsens.

The findings provide an evidence-based facet of policymaking in a precarious democracy criticized for lackluster pandemic intervention. The international media, for instance, initially branded the Philippine COVID-19 response a “tragedy of errors” ( Beltran, 2020 ). While there is arguably a basis for this view, our findings suggest nevertheless that there was an attempt by the government to be responsive, even if such responsiveness meant pandering to public sensitivities with respect to weighing policy alternatives. There was also policy learning, as shown by how the government pragmatically reoriented its policy narrative from economic support to mass inoculation, after heightened interest in social transfers made it realize that population immunity is more cost effective in the long run.

The article proceeds as follows. We begin by expounding on the relationship between crises and policy change as the focus of theoretical and empirical introspection in the literature. Afterwards, we elaborate on our theory explaining why the government's COVID-19 policies were shaped by policy adaptation and experimentation. We also explain why we expect informational citizenship to induce the government to turn from a reactive policy that is narrowly focused on providing economic assistance to one that targets population immunity. This is followed by a discussion of the data, measures, and estimation approach we employed to test our conjecture. We then discuss the results and how they nuance current understanding of the government response to the COVID-19 crisis. The article concludes with the broader implications of the findings on pandemic policymaking.

Policymaking and policy shifts

There is a policy change or shift when one that is existing is replaced with something new and innovative, or undertakes incremental refinements ( Bennett and Howlett, 1992 ). Political dynamics, problems, and proposal may be construed as streams capable of suddenly changing government policies ( Cairney and Jones, 2016 ). During crucial periods, these streams may create an opportunity or condition in which agenda change is possible. Referred to as policy windows, these critical junctures open an array of choices to policy actors, allowing decision making to become more significant ( Capoccia and Kelemen, 2007 ; Donnelly and Hogan, 2012 ). Punctuated equilibrium occurs when abrupt and radical policy changes arise after a long period of stability ( Jones and Baumgartner, 2012 ). Bennett and Howlett (1992) , for their part, argue that states learn from experiences and modify decisions based on how well previous measures performed in the past. This policy learning serves as a platform for future decisions and these are circulated as new information to achieve political goals and create policy-related beliefs over time ( Moyson et al., 2017 ).

There are competing views on policy learning but there is almost scholarly consensus regarding the role of social forces in policy change. An indication of learning happens when there is a shift in policy, even though the preferred policy is not necessarily the most efficient ( Hall, 1993 ). Sometimes the government learns simultaneously while responding to circumstances or crises through key societal actors who create conditions that state officials must address ( Bennett and Howlett, 1992 ). Policy learning, according to Greener (2002) , takes place at various stages—those that take place at the level of policy instruments, and those that involve a shift where policymakers reject their own ideas and adopt another. Whereas policymakers are often responsible for the former, the broader social and political forces are the driving factors behind paradigmatic shifts ( Berman, 2013 ).

A robust strand of literature also construes policy change as a product of the confluence of three elements—institutions, interests, and ideas ( Béland, 2009 ; Shearer et al., 2016 ). Institutions refer to the formal and informal rules, norms, beliefs, and precedents that shape the policy response to a crisis ( Mahoney, 2000 ). Interests, on the other hand, reflect the policy choices, material motivations, and agenda, not just of policy actors (elected officials, civil servants), but even of those operating outside the government (societal groups, researchers, policy entrepreneurs) and their desire to influence the policy process to attain their own ends ( Kern, 2011 ; Prechel and Boies, 1998 ). Meanwhile, ideas refer to knowledge or belief about what is (scientific or factual knowledge), what ought to be (values), or a combination of these ( Pomey et al., 2010 ). Ideas can become decisive causal factors in policy change if there are considerable institutional impediments that weaken the capacity of political actors to promote the adoption of a concrete policy alternative ( Béland, 2009 ).

However, institutions, ideas, and interests are not mutually exclusive. Policy change can generally be caused by a shift in one, or their combination, and alter the structure of a policy network. For ideas to be realized, for instance, there have to be advocates. Interests, on the other hand, need to be able to modify behavior to attain the survival of ideas by contending or cooperating with other interests. In the context of the policy process, ideas may reflect ideological considerations or citizens’ values. Ideology and values, in turn, are gauged empirically by looking at how public opinion plays a role in the diffusion or modification of policies. Wlezien (1995) , for instance, conceives a model of public responsiveness in which citizens behave like a thermostat that sends a signal to the government when policy deviates from their preference so that this policy can change accordingly. Supposedly, critical public opinion ceases once policy is in congruence with citizen demand.

COVID-19 response as policy adaptation and experimentation

Existing works on the politics of the COVID-19 response in the Philippines have ubiquitously highlighted policy failure in the backdrop of a populist regime ( Aguilar, 2020 ; Hapal, 2021 ; Teehankee, 2021 ). However, such preoccupation with populism as a one-size-fits-all account not only hampers a more nuanced examination of policy discourse ( De Cleen and Glynos, 2021 ) but ignores the relevance of citizens as stakeholders and policy participants ( Kweit and Kweit, 2004 ). This article digresses from the conventional populist formula and contributes through an empirical inquiry of the relationship between citizen demand and policy response.

Like many in Southeast Asia during the early phase of the pandemic, the Philippines’ response to COVID-19 was fidgety, imperfect, and disproportionate. Dewi et al. (2020) note that public officials with very limited information dealt with the pandemic through a plethora of policy strategies that were not necessarily the most effective. These disproportionate policy reactions are a form of policy overreaction driven by the challenges that elected officials faced while coordinating extant policy strategies and collecting public health information. In search of the most effective response, governments repeatedly undertake a trial-and-error process of agenda setting, formulation, implementation, and evaluation, while exploring multiple policy possibilities. At crucial junctures, policy problems, their solutions, and the political environment converge and pave the way for an intervention that is acceptable to the public. But because resources vary by country, governments also take different approaches in their struggle with the pandemic. Inevitably, they may also be constrained by balancing the need to secure citizens’ economic well-being with managing shocks to the healthcare system.

Studies such as those by Purnomo et al. (2022: 2) characterize the Philippines’ COVID-19 response as underreactive, or one in which there is “a systematic stagnant or inadequate response by government officials to high risks or no response at all.” Interestingly, countries which underreact to the pandemic also exhibit rapid COVID-19 transmission. Policy reaction, however, is not just a function of economic or institutional readiness. Dewi et al.'s (2020) findings imply, for instance, that overall collective opinion and well-being is related to the manner by which policymakers respond to the pandemic.

Our theoretical premise construes citizens’ pocketbook assessment of economic uncertainty under COVID-19—operationalized by their search interest on the pandemic—as catalyzing a critical juncture, and applies it in the context of the COVID-19 response in the Philippines ( Figure 1 ). In our view, this juncture is capable of triggering a learning or realization process on the part of policymakers that allows incremental or small changes in policy through problem-solving approaches ( Dunlop and Radaelli, 2013 ; Flink, 2017 ) and is reflected in policy narratives. We follow Moyson et al. (2017) and construe this learning process as having both cognitive and social components in which information and experience are used to inform, substantiate, or legitimize policy beliefs and objectives ( Bennett and Howlett, 1992 ; Dunlop and Radaelli, 2013 ).

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Public's search interest and government's shifting policy narrative on COVID-19.

In this framework, stakeholder and citizen engagement feedback are valuable sources of policy learning, especially in the changing governance setting of governments grappling with COVID-19 as a critical juncture. We consider critical juncture as “a situation of extreme challenge and uncertainty” where institutional and social policies and practices have the propensity to result in fundamental change ( Twigg, 2020 ). We contribute by providing empirical support to the notion of crisis as critical juncture and as a causal determinant of policy shifts, using the Philippine government's COVID-19 policy response as a case study.

As is perhaps the case elsewhere, policy response to COVID-19 in the Philippines was relegated to a specialized technical group that operated autonomously and made policy decisions that were often insulated from political factors. Accordingly, policy actions concerning COVID-19 routinely proceeded from a single source and had been, to borrow from the punctuated equilibrium literature, “in a relative state of equilibrium” ( Amri and Drummond, 2020 ). The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is the body primarily responsible for all matters concerning emerging infectious diseases, such as swine flu and the novel coronavirus. The IATF-EID was convened in January 2020 but it was neither ad-hoc nor new, having been created through Executive Order 168 issued by former president Benigno Simeon Aquino on May 26, 2014.

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the government's response had been highly reactive and focused initially on minimizing the novel coronavirus’ impact on the economy. For instance, three of the four pillars of the Duterte administration's socioeconomic strategy against COVID-19 (see e.g. Department of Finance, n.d.) were all towards providing short-term financial or monetary support to facilitate economic recovery. Building public health resilience as a long-run priority was never on the agenda and state officials reportedly even downplayed the threat of the virus ( Dancel, 2020 ). The IATF provided operational command to the government's pandemic response but a coordination problem mired these efforts. Some local governments had to be more resourceful and took the initiative to secure vaccine doses instead of waiting for the national government to finalize agreements with international vaccine suppliers ( Ranada, 2021 ). The IATF, as a government-led agency, was also criticized for its lack of appropriate pandemic experts (e.g. epidemiologists), its reliance on former military officers for leadership, and for discounting inputs from important stakeholders such as businesses ( Inquirer , 2021 ).

By March 2021, the Philippines had had the world's longest lockdown—a notoriety largely derided in the international press as testament to the government's botched pandemic response ( Madarang, 2021 ). Perhaps the government thought that by limiting people's mobility it would be able to curb the spread of the virus and make a quick rebound. But people had a different appreciation of the pandemic and held different perspectives as to which policies have the most impact. Community lockdowns dislocated people from their livelihoods, creating the very conditions the government wanted to avert. As the lockdown prolonged, citizens became weary of the existing COVID-19 response and started to demand alternatives that would ease economic dislocations during and beyond the pandemic. Community quarantines and restricted mobility soon shifted public discourse on government policy from economic safety nets to the benefits of mass inoculation. On February 28, 2021, the Philippines received its first COVID-19 vaccines—the last among ASEAN countries. The government officially began its vaccine rollout on March 1, 2021, starting with medical frontliners.

Data, variables, and analytical approach

Political texts are known to be vectors of policy positions ( Laver and Garry, 2000 ). They also serve as a rich source of policy narratives which have played a key role in effective COVID-19 responses by creating opportunities for policy learning ( Mintrom and O’Connor, 2020 ).

To gauge the Philippine government's policy position on COVID-19, we compiled a dataset consisting of a corpus of 16,281 press releases on the novel coronavirus posted online by the PNA between January 30, 2020 and April 15, 2021. Since the corpus consists of the government's own press releases, it is not expected to be disinterested or neutral. As many of the press releases are likely propaganda, their selective presentation of government programs may be more towards reinforcing personality politics in the Philippines than anything else. However, as is typical in studies of this type, our interest is precisely to read the government's policy position from a corpus consisting of its own statements. This is consistent with studies that analyze political texts from unilateral sources such as party manifestos ( Eder et al., 2017 ), party elite interviews ( Ecker et al., 2022 ), and public pronouncements or speeches by key political actors such as chief executives ( Kaufman, 2020 ; Panao and Pernia, 2022 ).

The PNA (https:// www.pna.gov.ph ) is a web-based newswire service of the Philippine government, supervised by the News and Information Bureau (NIB) of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), and is responsible for disseminating relevant newspaper articles to local and international news agencies. The data coverage begins with January 30 as this was the date of the first reported case of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines ( Edrada et al., 2020 ). However, data-wise, the earliest PNA article on COVID-19 appeared only on February 15, 2021. We then derived topic models using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), a semi-supervised probabilistic approach of finding latent or hidden topics in a collection of documents by going through the distribution of co-occurring words or vocabulary ( Blei and Jordan, 2004 ; Blei and Lafferty, 2007 ), and implemented them through the R-based application Quanteda ( Benoit et al., 2018 ).

This procedure produced 10 topics. However, only seven of these exhibited thematic coherence. The topics contained words associated with the following: the economy, vaccination, testing, security, financial aid, hospitalization, and tourism. The procedure allows for the computation of a topic score (a value between 0 and 1) which may be construed broadly as the percentage by which a topic or theme characterizes a particular document. From this, we computed a mean topic score for each news date and constructed a day-to-day series, since COVID-19 updates occur on a daily basis. We operationalize the government's policy shift as the difference between the average daily scores for the economy and vaccination, respectively.

However, politicians and bureaucrats do not have a monopoly of policy formulation. We gauge citizen interest by examining the magnitude and pattern by which Filipinos have queried the COVID-19 pandemic on the internet. The big data platform Google Trends was utilized to construct a series of daily COVID-19-related searches for the Philippines categorized into the following search topics: economy (“economy,” “recession,” “unemployment,” “Philippine economy, “beneficiary,” “social amelioration program”), vaccination (“vaccine,” “COVID-19 vaccine,” “Astrazeneca,” “Pfizer,” “Moderna,” “Sinovac”), symptoms (“COVID-19 sign,” “COVID-19 symptom,” “asymptomatic”), and lockdown (“lockdown,” “community quarantine”). Although the categories are subjective, the search keywords are not arbitrary. Words such as unemployment, recession, and social amelioration, for instance, are all related search terms that trended with economy as a search topic. COVID-19 vaccine brands, particularly AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Sinovac, also figured prominently as popular search topics when people keyed the term “COVID-19 vaccine.” These are the four brands officially administered to the Filipino public as part of the government's inoculation effort at the time of data collection.

In recent years, online political discourse has come to be accepted as an approximation or surrogate of public opinion comparable to social surveys ( Caldarelli et al., 2014 ; Kalampokis et al., 2013 ; Kwak and Cho, 2018 ; O’Leary, 2015 ). Aside from Twitter, Google Trends also figures in the literature as a big data alternative for gauging public opinion and for analyzing the way by which consumers seek information ( Jun et al., 2018 ). Kwak and Cho (2018) believe that Google Trends reflects more genuine thoughts because it is not shared by other social media users and is less susceptible to the bandwagon effect and social desirability bias. In practice, Google Trends is also relatively easier to use.

In the politics and policy literature, Google Trends has figured as a measure of issue salience ( Dube and Kaplan, 2012 ; Graefe et al., 2014 ; Reilly et al., 2012 ) as well as public attention to issues ( Ciuk and Yost, 2016 ; Weeks and Southwell, 2010 ). It has been used to study energy policy ( Oltra, 2011 ), public interest on space exploration ( Whitman Cobb, 2015 ), public interest on biodiversity ( Troumbis, 2017 ), the impact of local health restriction on abortion ( Reis and Brownstein, 2010 ), and the impact of global public health on health-seeking behavior ( Havelka et al., 2020 ), and even to predict presidential elections ( Prado-Román et al., 2021 ) and construct an index of racial prejudice ( Stephens-Davidowitz, 2014 ).

We clarify that resort to search trends is our attempt at approximating public opinion. By search trend, we refer specifically to search interest—that is, what Filipinos search for in real time as events unfold—and not citizens’ news consumption. A survey conducted in 2021 by Pulse Asia indicates that about six in 10 Filipinos use the internet and also about six in 10 log in more than once a day (Gonzales, 2021a). Admittedly, search interest is a crude measure, considering that the same survey also indicates that television remains the top news source for Filipinos, especially on politics and government. Only 48 percent of Filipinos rely on the internet for news, of which 44 percent say they get their news from Facebook (Gonzales, 2021b). This is a limitation we acknowledge in this article.

We construe the aforementioned COVID-19 search trends as encompassing the Filipino public's concern or interest in COVID-19-related issues. We hypothesize that in the framing of its COVID-19 policy, the government's focus on social amelioration increases as citizens’ interest in economic conditions increases, but only up to a point. As citizen's interest in economic conditions heightens further, the focus on social amelioration diminishes as the government shifts its emphasis on vaccination to convince the public to have themselves inoculated.

We begin with a descriptive and visual examination of the data and its component variables. A logistic regression entails modeling the probability of the presence or existence of a particular event or class. In this case, our interest is in the probability of COVID-19-related vaccination getting more attention than social amelioration as a thematic focus of government policy narrative. An event is construed operationally as one in which vaccination as a topic model in the press release corpus exceeds social amelioration as a topic share for a given date. The graph in Figure 2 gives an informal comparison between vaccination and social amelioration as topics in the aggregated press releases issued between February 2020 and May 2021. To facilitate visual assessment, the values are normalized for both variables of interest.

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COVID-19 vaccination and social amelioration as topic models. Note: Values are normalized to facilitate visual comparison.

As the graph suggests, the government's economic response to COVID-19 has been considerably oriented towards mitigating the social cost of the pandemic. However, the trend appears to dissipate and over time the government's policy position seems to shift towards mass vaccination. Interest in mass vaccination, on the other hand, had a steadily trending increase that became more conspicuous sometime in the middle of January. The vertical line corresponding to February 28, 2021 indicates the date when the Philippines officially received its first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. The press touted the event as kick-starting the government's mass inoculation campaign ( Tomacruz, 2020 ). The highest observed search interest was on March 1, 2021. Meanwhile, the highest reported search interest on social amelioration was on April 27, 2020. The variable pertaining to the government's shifting policy narratives takes only two values (1 and 0). In the dataset, more than a third (36 percent) of the observations refer to instances in which vaccination received more policy attention than social amelioration. Table 1 gives a descriptive summary of the variables.

Descriptive statistics.

In the models, a day lag is used for all independent variables to ensure causality.

Table 2 summarizes the estimates for three logistic regression models gauging the effect of citizens’ concern about the economy on the government's COVID-19 policy position. Model 1 is an unrestricted model containing both linear and squared specification for query interest on the economy, while controlling for other COVID-19-related search topics, as well as the number of daily confirmed cases and deaths. Model 2 specifies interest in the economy as having only a linear relationship but likewise includes the previously identified control variables. The hypothesis suggests that citizens’ growing concern about the economy would, at some point, cause the government's policy focus to pivot from social amelioration to mass vaccination. It is not enough for this assumption to have a theoretical basis, however; the data must also provide structural support. Hence, following Cohen (2013) , we ran Box-Tidwell ( Box and Tidwell, 1962 ) transformations for the models to check whether our data support a curvilinear conjecture. Box-Tidwell regressions for the first two models did not converge. Meanwhile, the Box-Tidwell transformation for a more parsimonious specification seems to suggest a curvilinear relationship for interest in the economy, interest in vaccines, and new confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Summary of logistic regression estimates.

Standard errors in parentheses. * p  < 0.05, ** p  < 0.01, *** p  < 0.001.

To examine whether the squared terms have explanatory power even with streamlined parameters, we conducted link tests for model adequacy ( Pregibon, 1980 ; Tukey, 1949 ). Similarly, the link tests seem to prefer the parsimonious parameters in Models 3 and 4. Model 3 includes squared terms for the three variables assumed to be curvilinear but vaccine interest in this specification does not appear to have a significant effect. Model 4, which restricts the assumption of a curvilinear relationship to interest in the economy and new confirmed cases, also suggests that the relationship between interest in vaccines and a shifting policy narrative is linear.

Both Models 3 and 4 support the hypothesis that citizens’ pocketbook assessments of the economy have both short-and long-term effects on the government's policy response. The curvilinear relationship suggests that as Filipinos anxiously inquire about their livelihood and the economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the government responds by providing social safety nets as an initial response. But as such interest in their economic condition heightens due to prolonged economic disruptions, the government is constrained to shift its policy focus towards wide-scale inoculation. For a more tangible notion of how much citizens’ pocketbook assessment of the economy shapes government policy, we examine adjusted predicted probabilities at various magnitudes, while all other variables are set at their means. To facilitate interpretation, the graph in Figure 3 illustrates the relationship visually.

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Citizen's search interest in the economy and government's policy frame.

In periods in which citizens’ apprehension about the economy is still manageable, policy attention on social amelioration is also low and government has room to explore other policy options such as mass vaccination in its narrative. As people become more anxious about worsening economic dislocations, however, policy attention to social amelioration also increases in an attempt to pander to citizens’ demand. As economic anxiety heightens further, policy attention shifts back to mass vaccination, possibly as a long-term response. In Model 4, the turning point is when interest in the economy is at 2.8. The mean of the economic interest index is 1.7. About 20 percent of the observations are equal or above the tipping point, suggesting that the curvilinear specification is justified.

Model 4 also suggests that there is only a linear relationship between citizens’ interest in vaccines and policy attention. The probability of the government highlighting mass inoculation in its policy narrative increases with the public's growing interest in vaccines. Under a linear specification, this relationship is straightforward and statistically very significant. Figure 4 depicts this relationship visually.

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Citizens’ search interest in vaccines and government's policy frame.

As with an interest in economic conditions, the number of daily confirmed new COVID-19 cases has a curvilinear relationship with attention to vaccines in the government's policy narrative. Although no specific hypothesis was posited for this variable, the result is intuitive and consistent with the article's overall theoretical conjecture. Based on the findings, the government panders to citizens’ demand for ameliorative socioeconomic interventions as daily COVID-19 cases increase, but only up to a point. Figure 5 shows that as the number of daily infections increases, policy attention shifts to vaccines in the government's policy narrative.

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Daily new COVID-19 cases and policy frame.

In this article, we show that the Philippine government's framing of its response to the pandemic has vacillated between easing socioeconomic dislocations through temporary social amelioration and convincing the public to get inoculated. As citizens become interested in the economic implications of the pandemic, the government responds by highlighting social amelioration in its policy narratives. However, as citizens’ search interest increases with mounting economic dislocations, the government is constrained to redirect the focus of its policy narratives towards mass vaccination.

In the media, this approach was heavily criticized for slowing down the rollout of vaccines and aggravating the economic stagnation brought by mobility curbs at the height of the pandemic ( Gonzales, 2021 ). Securing and delivering vaccines to ensure immediate access to the most vulnerable people has long been a recognized public health policy ( Carroll et al., 2015 ; Hasan et al., 2021 ), and the Philippines may have acted a little late in this regard. Some in the Filipino medical community blame delayed procurement for the slow pandemic recovery ( Macaraeg, 2021 ), an indication of mismanagement according to some political coalitions ( Ramos, 2021 ). Studies observed that when the second wave of infection hit the Philippines in 2021, the government was so preoccupied with reallocating resources to COVID-19 that it did not take long for the public health system to become overwhelmed ( Uy et al., 2022 ). By April 2021, rising numbers of cases pushed many facilities to critical capacity, so much so that hospitals turning away both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients had become commonplace ( Morales and Lema, 2021 ).

Arguably, the patchy state of the healthcare system tells a lot about the quality of the government response. It may be contended further that the government's semblance of responsiveness was all part of performance politics in anticipation of the 2022 elections. These are valid claims worthy of further scholarly introspection. Their elaboration, however, is beyond the scope of this article. What seems to be certain is that, like its counterparts elsewhere, the Philippine government was motivated and constrained by whatever capacity and opportunity were available in the creation of its pandemic response ( Capano et al., 2020 ; Rudan, 2021 ). If COVID-19 is straining the public health system of wealthy countries, conditions are worse in developing countries grappling with social protection and health financing ( Shadmi et al., 2020 ). Even before the pandemic, the Philippine healthcare system was already ill-prepared with its poorly funded public hospitals and inadequate social health insurance ( Obermann et al., 2006 ; Querri et al., 2018 ). Current missteps and poor strategy amidst the pandemic only magnified what is already obvious.

The government initially anchored its COVID-19 response on a social amelioration program intended to minimize the economic cost of business suspensions and lockdowns. Operating on the assumption that the pandemic will only be temporary, the government pandered to citizens’ demand for social assistance payments and the physical distribution of cash. But social assistance programming being expensive, inefficient, and susceptible to imperfect targeting ( Gerard et al., 2020 ), public demand for additional economic assistance also became a wake-up call of sorts for the government to seek a long-term public health option. Policy learning without a doubt occurred late but nonetheless this is far from the conventional populist description of seeking easy solutions or spectacularizing the crisis response. This is also consistent with prior accounts of resourced-constrained governments with fragmented political institutions opting for incremental policy changes over comprehensive reforms when faced with a health crisis ( Oliver, 2006 ).

Nevertheless, we do acknowledge methodological limitations whose exploration would no doubt provide a richer understanding of crisis policy framing in the Philippines. Television, for instance, remains the top news source for Filipinos and may provide another dimension to Filipinos’ information-seeking behavior if data can be derived meaningfully. Filipinos’ social media behavior also suggests a promising platform for analyzing the link between public opinion and public policy, subject to parameters that will minimize the noise and bias in generated data ( Olteanu et al., 2019 ).

Our findings have a number of implications. While regimes matter in dissecting pandemic responses, there is a lot to learn from citizens’ emotions and their potential to catalyze desirable policy outcomes. Also, in developing countries with patchy healthcare systems, the difficulty balancing between economic and public health priorities could just as easily be a function of structural inadequacy as it is of administrative inefficiency. Finally, in future pandemic response it may be worthwhile for governments to keep in mind that policy learning is meaningless unless decision makers act with coherence, foresight, and a sense of immediacy.

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Funding: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by a grant for research on COVID19 in the Philippines from the Institute of Mathematics, College of Science, University of the Philippines Diliman.

ORCID iD: Rogelio Alicor L Panao https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9834-1318

Contributor Information

Rogelio Alicor L Panao, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines.

Ranjit Singh Rye, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines.

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  5. Philippines: ICRC response to COVID-19

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COMMENTS

  1. COVID-19

    COVID-19. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, some will become seriously ill and require medical attention. Older people and those with underlying ...

  2. COVID-19: Latest Philippine news updates about the novel coronavirus

    DOH: Average daily COVID-19 cases down to 36 on 4th pandemic anniversary. Mar 14, 2024 04:26 PM.

  3. COVID-19 situation reports

    WHO Philippines situation reports by date. 20 December 2023. COVID-19 in the Philippines Situation Report 142. 27 November 2023. COVID-19 in the Philippines Situation Report 141. 12 November 2023. COVID-19 in the Philippines Situation Report 140. 29 October 2023.

  4. COVID-19: an ongoing public health crisis in the Philippines

    The Philippines is contending with one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in southeast Asia. As of April 18, 2021, there were 926 052 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and 15 810 deaths recorded. WHO has warned that the country's health-care system risks being overwhelmed. From March 29, 2021, a new round of lockdown was implemented in Manila and four ...

  5. COVID-19 in the Philippines Situation Report 101

    COVID-19 in the Philippines Situation Report 101. 9 May 2022. | Emergency Situational Updates. Download (3 MB)

  6. A Record Virus Surge in the Philippines, but Doctors Are Hopeful

    The number of active Covid-19 cases in the Philippines hit 290,938 on Monday, a record, and sharply up from 10,095 a month ago. Health experts say the true number is far higher because the ...

  7. COVID-19 Information for the public

    Information for the public. The latest public guidance and health advice from WHO Western Pacific for the COVID-19 outbreak. For more advice: Visit the WHO Western Pacific country websites for contextual and local language content. Visit the WHO global website for more resources and information.

  8. COVID-19 pandemic: Latest situation in the Philippines

    Bookmark and refresh this page for the latest news updates, opinion articles, and analysis pieces about the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. LATEST UPDATES Aug 20, 2022 7:10 PM PHT

  9. Philippines Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Situation Report #72, 19

    Philippines Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Situation Report #72, 19 March 2021. 19 March 2021. Situation report dated 19 March 2021; Situation summary • Out of a total 648,066 confirmed cases reported in the Philippines as of today, 54% are male, with the most affected age group 20-29 years (26%) followed by the age group 30-39 years (23.6%)

  10. COVID-19

    Content Topic COVID-19 More to explore. Max. Article (22 ) Campaign (3) ... Press release. 27 February 2024 Philippines Receives Php 145.5 M Grant from UNICEF, Government of Canada to Boost Routine Immunization for Children MANILA, 27 February 2024 - The Philippines, through the Department of Health (DOH), receives PHP 145.5 million (CAD$3.4 ...

  11. COVID-19 Impacts on Low Income Families in the Philippines

    The COVID-19 Low Income Household Panel and Economic (HOPE) survey is a series of surveys that investigated the conditions of low-income households during the pandemic and the impact of the government's social protection programs. Using data from the same set of sample 4Ps households and non-4Ps low-income households, traced from December ...

  12. COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines

    The COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines was a part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 ().As of April 12, 2024, there have been 4,140,383 reported cases, and 66,864 reported deaths, the fifth highest in Southeast Asia, behind Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.The first case in the Philippines was identified ...

  13. Understanding COVID-19 dynamics and the effects of ...

    COVID-19 dynamics in the Philippines are driven by age, contact structure, mobility, and MHS adherence. Continued compliance with low-cost MHS should help the Philippines control the epidemic until vaccines are widely distributed, but disease resurgence may be occurring due to a combination of low population immunity and detection rates and new variants of concern.

  14. Building a Better Normal under COVID-19: Harnessing Digital

    When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in February 2020, containment measures made digitalization essential for economic and social resilience. The Philippines, unfortunately, has not been able to leverage digital technologies to their full extent because of poor access to affordable and high-quality internet and long-held analog practices.

  15. Early response to COVID-19 in the Philippines

    Abstract. Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with weak health systems are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this paper, we describe the challenges and early response of the Philippine Government, focusing on travel restrictions, community interventions, risk communication and testing, from 30 January 2020 when the ...

  16. Frequently asked questions

    COVID-19 Dashboard. Vaccine Kalusugan Kabuhayan Kaayusan Kinabukasan FAQs Information Gallery. Frequently asked questions. Search questions. Search questions. Do you have comments or suggestions? Share them with us. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES All content is in the public domain unless otherwise stated. ABOUT GOVPH. Learn more about the ...

  17. First COVID-19 infections in the Philippines: a case report

    The first suspected case in the Philippines was investigated on January 22, 2020, and 633 suspected cases were reported as of March 1. We describe the clinical and epidemiological aspects of the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, both admitted to the national infectious disease referral hospital in Manila.

  18. Health Systems Impact of COVID-19 in the Philippines

    Health systems of low-to-middle-income countries may have fewer buffering resources and capacity against shocks from a pandemic. This paper presents a preliminary review on the collateral health systems impact of COVID-19 in the Philippines through review of academic and grey literature, supplemented by a qualitative survey.

  19. A topic modeling analysis on the early phase of COVID-19 response in

    Abstract. Like many others across the globe, Filipinos continue to suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic. To shed light on how the Philippines initially managed the disease, our paper analyzed the early phase of the government's pandemic response. Using machine learning, we compiled the official press releases issued by the Department of Health ...

  20. COVID-19 in the Philippines Situation Report 89

    COVID-19 in the Philippines Situation Report 89. 8 November 2021. | Emergency Situational Updates. Download (2.6 MB)

  21. Journalism, public health, and COVID-19: some preliminary insights from

    Abstract. In this essay, we engage with the call for Extraordinary Issue: Coronavirus, Crisis and Communication. Situated in the Philippines, we reflect on how COVID-19 has made visible the often-overlooked relationship between journalism and public health. In covering the pandemic, journalists struggle with the shrinking space for press ...

  22. As Russia's attacks step up, Ukraine fears waning Western support

    Ukraine was not expected to put up a fight. Russian soldiers were supposed to be parading in Kyiv within days of the invasion. With his "blitzkrieg", Mr Putin's aim was to present the West ...

  23. Policy responses and government science advice for the COVID 19

    As this demographic is at most risk from severe COVID 19 , it is in the country's interest to suppress the pandemic. With collation and content analysis of policy responses and their narratives, the purpose of this paper to review the COVID 19 pandemic response in the Philippines in light of the inevitability of relaxing quarantine protocols.

  24. WHO sounds alarm on viral hepatitis infections claiming 3500 lives each day

    New data from 187 countries show that the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these, 83% were caused by hepatitis B, and 17% by hepatitis C. Every day, there are 3500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections. "This report paints a troubling picture ...

  25. Junctures in the time of COVID-19: Topic search and government's

    Just as prospects were getting rosy for the Philippine economy, bad news arrived. On January 22, 2020, the first COVID-19 infection in the Philippines was detected in two Chinese nationals visiting the country (Edrada et al., 2020).On February 2, 2020, the first confirmed death due to the virus was reported (Marquez, 2020).By March, the virus had taken the lives of 24 more additional patients ...