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BBM to LGUs: Build wall of immunity

PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. asked local government units (LGUs) to support his administration’s booster shot drive against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) so that face-to-face classes could resume and the country may reopen its economy.

In a virtual speech before the newly elected governors and mayors in Malacañang on Friday night, Marcos cited the importance of booster shots in building a wall of immunity and moving on from the pandemic.

At the same time, Marcos said he was open to making face masks optional and said there will no longer be wide lockdowns in the country despite the sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases.

“I hope that you will be part of the effort that we have to bring us back to normal. This is really part of the effort to bring us back to normal,” said Marcos who is currently in isolation after he tested positive for Covid-19. This is the second time that the President was infected with the virus.

“Gawin natin itong booster rollout at makakatiyak tayo [na] wala nang lockdown at ayaw na ayaw na naming magkaroon ng lockdown (Let’s do this booster rollout and we can make sure [that] there is no more lockdown as we really don’t want to have lockdowns anymore),” Marcos said.

Marcos asked local officials to help agencies in replicating the massive Covid-19 vaccine rollout conducted last year and praised them for the “very, very good job.”

He said he wants the LGUs to conduct a large-scale immunization drive for booster shots targeting school children so they can safely go back to school either August or September.

Marcos has revealed the government’s plan to resume full capacity in-person learning by November this year.

If the massive vaccination drive becomes successful, the government could allow children to return to full face-to-face classes and open the rest of the economy, which Marcos said could send a signal to the rest of the world that the Philippines is opening up for business.

At the same time, Marcos said the government may consider relaxing the alert level and make masking optional but stressed that these could only be done “if it is very clear that it is really safe.”

So far, only the provincial government of Cebu has ordered making anti-virus masks optional in open spaces, a unilateral move which the Department of the Interior and Local Government said was unacceptable because the national government has not changed its face mask protocol.

In a previous statement, Marcos urged the public to continue wearing face masks and comply with other minimum public health protocols to prevent another surge of Covid-19 cases.

“We have already made economic headways and we should not allow them to be brought to naught. This is why I am urging everyone to take part in preventing another surge that could block our way to economic recovery,” Marcos said.

Among the highlights of Friday’s event were the briefing presentation by the Department of the Interior and Local Government on LGU efforts on booster administration, the Department of Education’s (DepEd) presentation on the resumption of face-to-face classes, and the Department of Health’s plan on vaccination mobilization.

Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, on behalf of Marcos, presided over Friday’s meeting.

In a tweet he posted on Saturday, Marcos, in Filipino, expressed his appreciation for the officials who took part in the discussion and said that although he wasn’t able to physically join the meeting, he used online to discuss the plans for the Booster Campaign Rollout and the resumption of face-to-face classes nationwide.

He especially thanked Duterte-Carpio, who is concurrently at the helm of the DepEd, for taking charge of the meeting in his absence.

Duterte-Carpio, in a separate statement, said she prayed that God continue to bless Marcos with “good health.”

Late last year, the Education department began allowing select schools to hold limited face-to-face classes.

The implementation has progressively been expanded and as of June, around 32,000 public schools have started holding physical classes.

In contrast, only about 1 in every 10 private schools or a little over 1,000 have followed suit.

The Philippines currently allows Covid-19 vaccination for ages 5 and up. It recently released guidelines for additional doses for 12- to 17-year-olds.

Boosters for ages 12-17

Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross started its administration of Covid-19 booster shots to 12- to 17-year-olds.

Teens who have received their primary series five months ago or earlier may walk in with their parent or legal guardians at the Philippine Red Cross Logistics and Multipurpose Center (PLMC) Bakuna Center in Apo corner Pinatubo Streets, Mandaluyong City from Mondays to Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

They must bring their ID, complete vaccination card, parent or guardian’s legal ID, and proof of filiation.

The Department of Health (DoH) said that as of July 3, an estimated 70,780,972 or 78.64 percent of the country’s target population (90,005,357) have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

A total of 15,147,905 individuals have received booster shots.

The DoH has recorded a total of 7,398 new Covid-19 cases in the past week.

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