MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Tuesday expressed confidence that the recent surge in COVID-19 infections would be abated because of intensified safety measures as it maintained that a wide-reaching lockdown would not be sustainable due to its impact on the economy.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government’s pandemic task force has released strategies requiring establishments to ensure better ventilation and that individuals strictly follow health and safety protocols like frequent hand washing, wearing of face masks and face shields, and physical distancing.
Local governments are also implementing the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic or CODE, which aims to find, isolate, and test persons with COVID-19 symptoms, he added.
“We can lower that number because we already learned from last year that it is important to take care of our lives so we can work,” Roque said at a press briefing.
“It would be difficult if we close the economy again and many of our countrymen lose their livelihood,” he added.
Roque was asked to react to the forecast of the OCTA Research group that the daily COVID-19 cases in the Philippines may balloon to as much as 11,000 by the end of the month because of a higher reproduction number, which is now at 2.03. A reproduction number or R-naught of 2.03 means that an infected person can infect two other individuals.
The health department has recorded more than 5,000 daily new COVID-19 cases in the past few days, a trend that has been tied to new and more transmissible virus variants, relaxed quarantine restrictions, and less compliance with safety measures.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said local governments would continue to implement localized lockdowns, which are limited to specific areas with COVID-19 infections.
“Big lockdowns are not really sustainable so the mayors are talking and they are doing their best to impose what we call localized lockdowns…We are confident that under the leadership of the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority), they can do it,” he said.
On Monday, Roque said a total lockdown is not necessary for now because 55% of intensive care unit beds, 60% of ward beds, and 60% of isolation facilities remain available. He, however, cited the need to lower the reproductive number so there would be enough health facilities if the number of serious cases increases.
Roque, who announced Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19, disputed claims that the Philippines is back to “Square One” a year after the government enforced lockdowns to contain the virus.
“We are not back to Square One because we have better facilities; we have more clinical bed capacity; we have more ward bed capacities; we have prepared the healthcare capacity so we can treat people who will get sick,” the Palace spokesman said.
“So, I think we have been doing well in this effort. And we need to recognize that this is not just an accomplishment of the president or the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) but the entire Filipino nation. Of course, it is the people that will determine their fate,” he added.
Asked whether the administration would apologize for the rising number of infections, Roque replied: “I think we could do better, and that is always an assurance that we could do better and we are aiming to do better.”
“But I think we have done the best that we could under the circumstance, and now we are in a stage where we are nearing a solution because of the expected arrival of the vaccines,” he added.
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