Philippines

Duterte: End of Covid crisis ‘months away’

President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Filipinos to remain patient and resilient, saying the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic will linger for months until a cure is found.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government’s efforts in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on May 19, 2020. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

In his speech during the virtual simultaneous commencement exercises of the Philippine Military Academy “Masidlawin” Class of 2020 and the Philippine National Police Academy “Mandayug” Class of 2020 on Friday night, Duterte warned the public of “dangerous and abnormal times” because of the “fast-spreading” pandemic.

“The period we live in is not a vineyard of comfort. These are troubled times, dangerous [and] abnormal times caused by a fast-spreading and highly contagious virulent virus [or virus] the Covid-19- that cuts across the whole of humankind,” Duterte said.

“There is no aspect of human life that is not affected by [this] terrible curse that lurks at every corner and every turn of every space where people meet [or] converge where people have been. [Its direness suffocates] every human activity- economic, financial or elsewise — has been affected. Sadly its end appears to be months and months away still,” he said.

The President once again appealed to the public to follow quarantine rules as the government works on containing the spread of the pandemic.

“Patience, perseverance and resilience are the crying needs of the moment. I trust that every Filipino has this in his person and virtues abundant,” he said.

In a television address Tuesday night, the President expressed optimism that a vaccine for Covid-19 would be available by early 2021.

He said clinical trials for an experimental vaccine being developed by the United States biotech firm Moderna Inc. were showing “positive” results.

There is no approved treatment or vaccine yet for Covid-19.

Also on Friday, Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the national action plan against Covid-19, declared the country was so far “winning” the fight against the coronavirus, pointing out that infections and deaths linked to the pandemic are gradually decreasing.

Galvez attributed the success to the government’s two-pronged strategy which operationalizes the T3 program — test, trace and treat, and its Pditra program — prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, reintegration, and adopting the new normal.
He said the country’s Covid infection averaged 250 per 11,509 tests daily.

He added that in March and April, the cases had a “positivity rate” of 13 percent, but this has since gone down to 8 percent this month.

The daily death rate is also down to single digits in May, while recoveries have breached the 3,000-mark, he said.

Galvez also said the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine has boosted efforts to contain the virus.

He made comparisons of the country’s Covid response with the United States and Italy, both hardest hit by Covid.

Metro Manila, the epicenter of the country’s pandemic, has so far recorded 842 deaths for a population of 16.5 million.

New York City, on the other hand, has 61,886 deaths for a population of 19.5 million. In Italy 32,330 deaths were recorded in the Lombardy Region, which has 10 million people, Galvez said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government, meanwhile, ordered help desks set up in police stations nationwide to assist locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said LSIs include foreign nationals or Filipino citizens such as construction and domestic workers, tourists, students, and other stranded individuals.
ROFs refer to Filipinos who are returning to the Philippines from abroad, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), documented or non-documented and non-OFWs.

Also considered ROFs are returning students, exchange visitors program, returning Filipino diplomats, returning Filipino tourists, participants of Philippine government-sponsored programs such as training and scholarships, and dependents and accompanying foreign spouses.

LSIs and ROFs only need two requirements for them to go home: medical certificate and authority to travel.

Medical certificates can be obtained from the health office of the local government units where they were stranded.

The medical certificate does away with PCR and rapid tests.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny”Angara meanwhile said Covid testing must be ramped up to avoid another outbreak of the disease, as Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities gear for further easing of restrictions on movement and the return to work for even more people.

Until such time that more people are tested, Angara said, there would always be a risk of an outbreak.

Last Monday, Angara filed Senate Bill 1535 or the proposed “Crushing Covid Act,” a counterpart measure to the bill filed by Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, which seeks to implement mass testing, particularly among the vulnerable sectors of society.

Under the bill, the testing will prioritize persons returning to work with comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, pulmonary diseases, cancer, renal failure, pregnancy, old age, obesity and the immunocompromised.

Priority will also be given health care workers, sales personnel in public markets, groceries and supermarkets, food handlers, factory workers, construction workers, security guards and drivers, banks and transfer fund facilities personnel, laundry shop workers, house helpers, caregivers, pregnant women, embalmers, wellness and salon workers, uniformed personnel, media personnel, barangay health workers, and family members whose households have dwellers who went abroad last December until the present time.

The bill also prescribes the grant of an emergency pandemic leave covering the period of quarantine/treatment of the employee who tests positive for Covid-19.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases aims to increase the testing capacity of the country from the present 11,509 daily to 30,000 per day by the end of May.

There are 37 accredited testing facilities in operation. Another 119 laboratories have pending applications for accreditation.

With DARWIN PESCO and JAVIER JOE ISMAEL

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