Gov’t told: Act decisively on calls for 'circuit-breaker' lockdown but be ready with aid

Govât told: Act decisively on calls for 'circuit-breaker' lockdown but be ready with aid
Residents of Marikina City line up for their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at mega vaccination site in Marikina Sports Center on July 8, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said the government must listen to and "act decisively" on calls from experts for a pre-emptive two-week lockdown to prevent the devastating surge in cases driven by the Delta variant seen in neighboring countries. 

The Department of Health earlier disputed OCTA Research's assessment that a surge in cases in Metro Manila had already begun, noting that while cases in the region are rising there is "no definitive evidence" yet that it is a surge. 

"If there is an emerging consensus among experts on going into a pre-emptive or sooner-than-later lockdown— considering our limited capacities and resources to deal with a full-scale surge —  government should listen and act decisively," Hontiveros said. 

"But any discussion of circuit breakers should include talks about assistance," she said in Filipino. "[U]ntil now, there has been no news about Bayanihan 3 even during the president's [State of the Nation Address] on Monday."

The senator warned that the capacity of the business sector, especially micro, small and medium enterprises, is limited and many Filipinos will have to survive with no income for two weeks if another lockdown is hoisted. 

Malacañang has said that it does not view the passage of Bayanihan 3, a measure that would give emergency cash subsidies to vulnerable households and replenish the government's dwindling pandemic funds, as urgent. It was also left unmentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte in his final SONA.  

Testing, tracing, vaccination still lacking  

"Not only is there no aid but we are also lacking vaccines," Hontiveros said. "We are still not testing and tracing enough, and testing kits remain prohibitively expensive for most Filipinos." 

READ: Pandemic task force pressed to meet COVID-19 testing target of 90K a day‘Contact tracing still weakest link in COVID-19 response’

"The national positivity rate is still 2 to 3 times what WHO recommends. Hanggang dito na lang ba talaga tayo? (Is this as far as we can go?)" 

As of this writing, the latest figures from the government show that only 6.27% of Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Local transmission of the Delta variant was confirmed by the Department of Health last week. Metro Manila was soon after reverted to a stricter general community quarantine with heightened restrictions. 

— Bella Perez-Rubio 

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