BY PETER TABINGO and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
VICE President Leni Robredo yesterday urged government to adopt a more scientific approach in addressing problems brought by the coronavirus pandemic as she underscored the scarcity of resources.
Robredo made the call hours after presidential spokesman Harry Roque, citing findings of a research group, said cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are decreasing. He said it was “good work” but the the downtrend should be maintained.
Robredo, in an online statement, said government is in no position to risk wasting funds while the economy is still trying to regain its footing.
She said there are hard data at hand, like the monitoring of the Department of Health that can be used to help direct government aid where it can make a big difference.
As of September 26, she said, figures showed there are 66 local government units (LGUs) that can be categorized as high risk because they have 100 active cases per 100,000 population while there are 485 LGUs with no community transmission.
“We need a different strategy for each,” she said in Filipino.
She also noted that under the Bayanihan 2, government set aside P1.5 billion for local government support fund. She said the amount does not allow a lot of adjustments. She said there are 1,634 cities and municipalities in the country. “If they each have to get the same amounts under that fund, they will only get around P900,000 each. They cannot do a lot with that amount,” she said.
On the other hand, she noted that under the 2021 proposed budget, the P2.5-billion allocation for a COVID-19 vaccine would benefit only around 3.8 million Filipinos.
“What do you do with the more than 100 million who won’t get the shots?” she said.
Administering such a vaccine to a large segment of the population, Robredo said, would require thorough planning and organization.
She said the government can always call on the assistance of the Office of the Vice President and its network of community organizers and volunteers.
“In meeting this challenge. We cannot afford to make distinctions as to who belongs to the opposition or the administration. We are all Filipinos first,” she added.
Roque said the OCTA Research Group, composed of academicians and faculty members from the University of the Philippines, and the University of Santo Tomas which had been studying the COVID-19, said COVID cases per day dropped to 2,988 during the September 16-23 period from to 4,300 during the August 12-18 period.
OCTA recorded 3,956 cases from August 26-September 1; 3,731 from September 2-8; 3,561 from September 9-15; and 2,988 from September 16-23.
This translates to a drop in the reproduction number of 1.14 in August to 0.82 in September. The reproduction number or rate refers to the average number of persons who contract the disease from an infected person.
Roque said that in Metro Manila, COVID-19 cases went down from 2,676 in the August 13-19 period to 1,209 infections from September 17-24 period while the reproduction number dropped from 1.14 to 0.74.
He said the positivity rate in Metro Manila is at 10 percent this month, down from 14 percent in August.
He reiterated the need to continue to observe health protocols such as wearing masks, frequent washing of hands, and safe distancing
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the public should remain vigilant and abide by health protocols.
Roque also defended the use of face shields, which he said had been scientifically proven as an effective additional protection against COVID-19, following calls to forego its use in the workplace.
He said face shields are now more affordable and abundant which is why there is no reason it should not be required for use in the workplace.
He also advised private companies that cannot put up their own isolation space for their workers to coordinate with local government units concerned.
Roque and Vergeire said strict compliance with health protocols is a must in the re-opening of the tourism industry to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.
Boracay is preparing to receive visitors from areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) starting October 1.
Roque said the opening of Boracay is needed as workers in the tourism sector must now return to work.
He said under the guidelines, Boracay visitors from areas under GCQ or other lower quarantine classifications must obtain a negative RT-PCR test result after undergoing the test not earlier than 48 hours prior to the date of travel and underwent strict quarantine immediately after taking the COVID test until the date of travel to the island.
Age restrictions have been relaxed but restrictions on persons with comorbidities will remain to be strictly enforced.