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Philippines back to stricter COVID-19 controls

DUTERTE ADDRESSES PH
“We’re back to zero...” – President Rodrigo Duterte, March 29, 2021

On Monday, March 29, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite would be under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) again from March 29 to April 4. On Saturday, April 3, Palace spokesman Harry Roque announced that the ECQ will be extended until April 11. Other provinces are on varying levels of lockdown until April  30.

“We’re back to zero…” lamented Duterte during his national address, acknowledging the rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19 in the country.

The Philippine president assured the nation that workers and low-income Filipinos would receive their ayuda, or supplemental aid from the government.

During the conference, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado assured Duterte that the government has P23 billion available to help those affected by the lockdown.

On Tuesday, March 30, the funds were released to the Local Government Units (LGUs) for distribution to affected individuals in kind. The in-kind ayuda is in the amount of P1,000 per person or P4,000 per family. This amount is lower compared to the 2020 ayuda when low-income families received P5,000 to P8,000.

Vaccines

Duterte admitted that the government was having a tough time getting COVID-19 vaccines since other countries had been competing over supply.

“We are doing our best. We are not a vaccine producing country. We don’t have expertise, we don’t have knowledge, medical scientific knowledge. So, we are waiting,” he said.

“Something has gone wrong with most of the countries. They shanghaied [the vaccines]… I want to cry in front of you, but my tears have been used up,” he added.

National COVID-19 task force chief implementor, Sec. Galvez admitted that the Philippines is severely affected by the acute shortage in the global supply of the vaccines. It has adversely affected the Philippines’ vaccination plans for the first and second quarter of the year.

On Monday, one million CoronaVac doses acquired from Chinese drug maker Sinovac BioTech arrived in the Philippines.

In April, the 979,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the global procurement pool COVAX are expected to arrive. This was originally scheduled for March.

Galvez also said Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology committed only 100,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, hardly meeting the three million doses ordered by the Philippines.

To alleviate the vaccine problem and to help reopen the economy, Duterte gave the green light to the private sector to import COVID-19 vaccines to be given to their workers.

“No matter how much or how many they want to bring in, it’s okay with me,” he added.

As of March 29, a total of 668,018 Filipinos, mostly frontline/essential workers, have been vaccinated.

Duterte also warned unscrupulous people who would import fake vaccines to sell to desperate Filipinos. He vowed that they would be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Current COVID-19 situation in the Philippines

The Department of Health reported that the daily new cases peaked at 10,016 cases on Monday, March 29. This was a record increase in new cases in a single day since the pandemic started last year.

This brought the total number of cases to 731,894, with 602,213 recoveries and 13,186 fatalities.

The current number of active COVID-19 cases is 115,495.

The increase in infections was attributed to the new coronavirus variants like those first identified in South Africa and Britain. Both have been detected in the Philippines.