US disease agency suggests Philippines to slow down COVID-19 impact amid absence of vaccine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 15) - A ranking official from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the Philippines must slow down the impact of the coronavirus pandemic while there is no available vaccine yet.

“I think if we can slow things down long enough to maybe get a vaccine or some treatments, but we don’t have those right now. But what we do have to do, if we slow down, is really use any time that we gain to do as much preparing as possible, so increasing testing capacity, or improving the plans at hospitals, or the training of health care workers. There’s no easy answer,” said Dr. Barbara Manston, the U.S. CDC’s head of COVID-19 task force, in a telephonic briefing.

The country has so far recorded 5,453 COVID-19 cases, with 353 patients recovered and a death toll of 349. Its main island is currently under an extended enhanced community quarantine until the end of the month.

Marston said the government should be careful in making critical decisions relating to the health crisis, especially on the lifting of quarantine measures.

“Whatever is done, it’s going to have to be done carefully and kind of watched, and I think people have to be ready to possibly change their mind. So, make a decision, watch what happens, and be ready to change that decision,” she said.

“The factors you have to consider are: Have cases declined? What would happen if there were more cases? Is the health system ready to take on some more cases? And to balance all of those things. I think it’s a difficult question that everybody is grappling with now, and we wouldn’t have a specific recommendation for precisely what to do in the Philippines,” Marston added.

For his part, CDC Thailand office director Dr. John MacArthur said Southeast Asian nations have been communicating in dealing with highly-infectious pathogens.

“They (ASEAN) also have teams addressing issues about zoonotic diseases, or those diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. They have teams that are looking at strengthening laboratories across the region, and they also have teams that are focused on emergency operation centers,” he added.

CNN Philippines' correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report