Philippines to shift to third phase of National Action Plan vs COVID-19

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - October 8, 2020 - 3:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government is looking to sustain "gains" from its coronavirus response as it shifts to the third phase of its national action plan, chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said Thursday. 

Galvez, at a Palace briefing, said the goal is to provide an "equilibrium both on our health safety and economic recovery" which will take place on the last quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of next year. 

"We assure the public that there will be no more trade-offs," he said. "It is anchored on effective risk management...while we are opening our restrictions and economy, and learn to live with the virus until the vaccine is available."

The first phase of the National Action Plan involved containing the spread of the virus and cushioning its economic impact, with the second aimed at a low fatality rate and an economic recovery. 

The third phase is now at managing the health risks, and apparently, learning to "live with the virus."

Transitioning to 'new normal'

But what changes could be expected with the new pronouncement?

The retired military general, tasked to oversee the government's virus response, said they are looking to improve strategies on prevention, detection, isolation, treatment and recovery of COVID-19 patients. 

There is also a need to strengthen active case findings in communities to detect possible cases even without having to test them.

"This is something that the health department is already doing, going to the barangays in CODE teams and we started this first in communities in Metro Manila," Galvez said in Filipino.

He added that government will begin implementing the no home quarantine policy which he said "greatly reduced the active cases" in Cebu, Metro Manila and in other regions. 

"[This] provide us the necessary strategic systems and mechanisms that will enable us to jumpstart our economy," he said, "but at the same time, continue to lower our active cases until a vaccine is available."

Impact on the economy 

The government beginning June had looked to restart the economy that sustained hard losses from the pandemic, with the economy entering a recession for the first time in nearly three decades. 

More modes of transportation have been allowed and capacities of business establishments have been increased since then. In August, medical workers called for a two-week return to strict quarantine status in Metro Manila, as cases have increased significantly since then. The capital region was returned to MGCQ, but was also lifted out of it later on.

Citing figures from the National Economic Development Authority, Galvez said some .10 to .28 percentage points from the country's potential annual GDP growth of 6.5% is cut every week that Metro Manila remains in community quarantine. 

He said the .10 translates to P19.5 billion in loss value-added, or around P63.4 billion in loss sales. 

Galvez added that they are looking to allow more labor-intensive businesses that could generate more revenue. But could this possibly lead to a spike in infections, as more people will be enjoined to go out? 

For the government, it's not the reopening of the economy that causes spikes, but rather, the public not following protocols. 

"We are seeing that once people are made aware of the health standards, they can go out now with confidence that they will not be infected by the virus," he said in mixed Filipino and English. "The most important thing is the changing of behavior."

Philippine coronavirus infections have reached 329,637, the highest in Southeast Asia and recently emerging as one of the Top 20 countries in the world in terms of cases. 

To date, there have also been 5,925 deaths, 273,723 recoveries while the newly reported cases have stayed at more than 2,000 daily. 

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