PRESIDENT Duterte on Sunday night said he is likely to ease lockdowns nationwide to the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) if health authorities are able to sustain the government’s vaccination program and the country has in stock at least two million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The President, in a briefing after the arrival of the donated 600,000 doses of Sinovac-made vaccine from China, noted how the country continues to wobble under the economic difficulties caused by the health pandemic, with many workers becoming jobless and more families growing hungry because of lockdown restrictions on private business operations.
Duterte said the only way for the country to recover is to reopen the economy and allow businesses to resume operations.
“Kapag nag-umpisa na iyang rollout and the other vaccines would come in and distributed to the provinces, I may, siguro pagdating ng mga… we will have a million by this month.
Magkaroon lang tayo ng stock ng two million, bitawan ko na, I will open the economy (When the vaccine rollout starts and the other vaccines start coming in and are distributed to the provinces … We are expected to have a million by this month. If we have a stock of two million, I will drop it, I will open the economy),” Duterte said.
The President said the government will not be able to provide free vaccines to all 110 million Filipinos at present but if the country is able to inoculate at least 40 million people or have at least 20 million to 40 million doses of vaccine available for vaccination, “I will open the economy.”
The President, though, reiterated that he is not yet inclined to agree to the resumption of face-to-face classes.
Duterte had placed Metro Manila, Baguio City, Apayao, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City and Lanao del Sur under general community quarantine (GCQ), while the rest of the country is under MGCQ during the whole month of March.
The country’s first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine donated by the Chinese government arrived in the country on Sunday. The government is expecting the delivery of 3.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines under the Covax facility, and one million of the 25 million doses of vaccine it bought from Sinovac by the end of March.
The 117,000 doses from Pfizer, which was originally due in mid-February, have been delayed due to the country’s lack of an indemnification law and disagreements over the scope of indemnity, while the initial 525,600 shots for AstraZeneca which was due on March 1 was delayed because of supply and logistics limitations.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. in a briefing on Monday, said the vaccines from Pfizer are expected in the second quarter, probably around April, while the vaccines from AstraZeneca are expected in March. The vaccines under the Covax are separate from the vaccines being purchased by the government and are expected to arrive in the third to fourth quarter of the year.
The bulk of the vaccines that the Philippines is buying is due for delivery in the third to fourth quarter of the year.
The government is buying 148 million shots of vaccines to inoculate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos within the year.
Meanwhile, 13 persons were apprehended by the police after presenting a fake travel authority while passing through a quarantine checkpoint in Castillejos town in Zambales on Saturday, the police reported yesterday.
Those who were arrested were Patrick Sison, Jhian Enriquez, Sean Lacanilao, Kenneth Carbungao, Jayson Pineda, Warren Bautista, Mark Mallari, Christian Baladad, Ian Dayrit, Paula Paguinto, Raniel Ramoneda, Elvin Ocampo, and Joshua Mendoza.
The 13 suspects, who were aboard a Toyota Hi-ace van, were accosted by Castillejos policemen after they presented the falsified Regional Joint Task Force COVID Shield travel authority at the checkpoint.
They are all residents of Angeles City in Pampanga and were on their way to Botolan town in Zambales when accosted. The suspects and the fake travel document were brought to a police station.
The incident took place two days before authorities relaxed travel restrictions, including removal of travel authority, RT-PCR test and medical certificate as requirements for travelers. A travel authority is issued by the PNP upon presentation of COVID-19 test and medical certificate. – With Victor Reyes