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Opinion

Improving COVID data figures

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Like a roller-coaster ride, the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic cases have been going up and down in our country. Great sacrifices by us Filipinos to bear with the prolonged periods of lockdowns helped to some degree to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the country. But the previous buzzwords early on last year about “flattening of the curve” as desired goal in the anti-COVID campaign never happened up to now.

More than twenty months after President Rodrigo Duterte declared COVID-19 pandemic as a public health emergency, the Philippines might finally be getting near to this goal. Thanks largely to the more than 100 million doses of anti-COVID vaccines that were finally delivered in big bulks to the Philippines lately the past few months and in recent weeks.

The Philippines was already getting ahead on the pandemic late last year. Then the more transmissible foreign variants from Alpha to Delta struck us early this year. These foreign variants pushed to five-digits our country’ daily COVID-19 cases. President Duterte re-imposed another round of lockdowns as anti-COVID vaccines were coming in trickles starting late March this year.

Under the Inter-Agency Task Force in the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), the outgoing Duterte administration could only heave a sigh of relief when the government finally got more and more anti-COVID vaccines delivered. Initially from one million doses of Sinovac donated by China, our own government’s procurement began coming in. Thankfully, we begin to secure more anti-COVID vaccine supply coming from the multi-country donors called as the COVAX Facility of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The latest data has been showing a sustained decline in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Based on science and data monitoring, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that our country is fast becoming a “low risk” area in this part of the world. The hard work paid off for the whole-of-government approach in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before we rejoice over this piece of good news, it is more prudent to wait though for the WHO official declaration if indeed we are getting out of the woods, so to speak. This is the more preferred kind of “positive” result in our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

At this point, however, the independent monitoring by the Octa Research validates the DOH evaluation. In its data analytics of the DOH surveillance reporting on COVID-19 cases all over the country, the Octa Research identified yesterday among the “low risk” areas in the country, including several Metro Manila cities comprising the national capital region (NCR).

So we can safely assert our country is now able to hurdle the worst episode yet of the pandemic.

President Duterte was obviously satisfied by the latest reports of the IATF on the government’s anti-COVID campaign during his “talk-to-the people” last Monday night. The Chief Executive, however, expressed in strongest terms the battle against COVID-19 pandemic is still far from over.

In fact, the President issued his marching orders to all local chief executives from Mayors down to barangay captains to undertake the national vaccination campaign in their respective areas.

As of October 24, the President cited, the Philippines has received more than 97.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from both procured by the private sector, the national and local governments and donations from COVAX Facility.

The total doses administered as of same day is now more than 55.7 million, of which 30 million are first dose and the 25 million are the second dose and single-dose vaccinations.  For last Friday alone, he noted, a total of 724,000 Filipinos were inoculated.

“Then, we plan to vaccinate at the rate of 1 to 1.5 million in the next few days and weeks,” the President announced.

Towards this goal, the President ordered all local government units (LGUs) to carry out a “house-to-house” campaign to bring to vaccination centers their respective constituents for anti-COVID jabs. This is because getting anti-COVID vaccine is still on voluntary basis in our country. Many LGUs complain some of their constituents resist or are too afraid to get anti-COVID jabs. As a former Davao City Mayor for almost 20 years, the President narrated his own experience on how to impose one’s political will for as long as they stand on legal grounds and laws of the land.

A number of LGUs, however, have started to re-open their respective provinces initially in accepting domestic travelers and tourists. Under the new DOH Alert level system, the NCR along with other “low-risk” cities and provinces around the country have been downgraded to Alert Level-3 with less quarantine restrictions.

Fully vaccinated travelers can now travel to Cebu City, Bohol, Camiguin, Guimaras, Aklan, Panay Island including the popular island tourist resort of Boracay without the need for a  “negative” COVID-19 swab test, or using the required Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). The respective provincial governors issued local executive orders to allow travelers with valid anti-COVID vaccination cards or certificates as their entry pass.

Although some LGUs have re-opened for domestic tourism, the entire Philippines remain closed to foreign tourists. This is quite ironic to the IATF’s supposed easing of quarantine restrictions to foreign travelers from other countries. Effective last Oct.15, the IATF has “streamlined” and “codified” testing and quarantine protocols for international arriving passengers entering the Philippines. The IATF classifies red list, yellow list, and green list countries as “high risk,” “moderate risk,” and “low risk” for COVID-19, respectively.

Perhaps, eventually the Philippines would lift its border controls to foreign travelers when much improved COVID-19 data comes in. The popular idiom “every cloud has a silver lining” would best describe these hopes in the near future.

COVID-19
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