Palace insists Philippines on right track in pandemic response

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 03 2020 02:14 PM

Grab driver-partners and delivery riders undergo swab testing at the Quezon Memorial Circle on July 30, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Galvez: PH in 'critical phase' of pandemic response

MANILA-- The Philippines is on the "right track" in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said Monday even after the government reverted Metro Manila and nearby urban hubs to a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) as COVID-19 cases in the country breached the 100,000-mark.

The government is responding correctly to the pandemic, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said as he noted the low percentage of deaths among COVID-19 patients in comparison to the recoveries.

"Habang mababa po ang mga namamatay tama po ang ginagawa natin. Tingin ko po, papunta tayo sa tamang direksyon na tayo ay nag MECQ," Roque said in a Palace press brieifing.

(As long as there are a few people dying, we are doing the right thing. I think we are going on the right track with the MECQ.)

The Philippines has so far confirmed 2,059 COVID-19 deaths and 65,557 out of 103,185 cases.

Roque's remarks come after President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night heeded the plea of healthcare workers to revert Metro Manila to a stricter community quarantine to give exhausted frontline medical personnel a breather.

The MECQ, which will run from Aug. 4 to 18, also covers nearby provinces Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan.

The decision was announced on the same day that the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines breached the 100,000-mark, as a record 5,032 new infections were confirmed, raising the nationwide total to 103,185.

"Habang tayo po ay nasa MECQ, unang-una, pagpapahingahin po natin yung mga frontliners. Tayo po ay kukuha ng mga magtatrabaho para sila ay makapagpahinga," Roque said.

(While we are still under MECQ, we will let our frontliners take a break. We will get other workers so they could rest.)

FAILING RESPONSE?

The Palace mouthpiece, who previously claimed that the Philippines is winning the fight against the pandemic, refused on Monday to concede that the country is failing in its COVID-19 response.

Roque said, based on the criteria followed by the government, Metro Manila should not be placed under MECQ.

"Syempre po, nagsalita ang mga frontliners at ang sabi nga ng Presidente, ang giyerang ito ay laban sa sakit, eh sinong mapapadala niya sa giyera kundi ang frontliners so kinakailangan pakinggan at pagbigyan ang ating frontliners," he said.

(The frontliners have spoken and as the President said, this war is against a disease. Who else will he send to war but our frontliners so we have to listen and heed their request.)

COVID-19 policy chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. backed Roque, saying the MECQ decision was only proof that the government listens to the pleas of healthcare workers.

"Hindi po yung pag-aamin [ng failure]. Nakikita po natin na ang gobyerno natin ay isang listening government so may hinaing po yung ating mga healthcare workers at pinakinggan po natin iyon," Galvez said.

(It's not an admission of failure. We see that the govenrment is a listening government so we listened to the plea of healthcare workers.)

'WE'RE MANAGING'

The Philippines is currently in a "critical phase" of its pandemic response, said Galvez, noting that the government would use the 2-week MECQ period to "recalibrate" its pandemic response strategy.

"We are in the critical phase in our management of the crisis. Nakita natin na talagang nagbago ang behavior ng virus," he said.

(We saw that there is a change in the behavior of the virus.)

Some 80 percent of beds in hospital wards, and intensive care units dedicated to COVID-19 cases are already occupied, said treatment czar and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo de Vega.

The MECQ will buy the healthcare system some time to prepare for the accomodation of more COVID-19 cases, Department of Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

"Tayo naman po ay ginagawa natin lahat para mabigyan natin ng tugon itong tumataas na kaso dito sa mga piling lugar sa atin sa Pilipinas," Vergeire said.

(We are doing everything we can to respond to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in select areas in the Philippines.)

"So kung tinatanong po kung tayo ay nananalo? Tayo po ay nagmamanage," she added.

(So if the question is are we winning? We are managing.)

Apart from the staggering number of infections and deaths, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) perpetually changed the Philippines, which now holds the record for the world's longest lockdown.

Millions have gone jobless since March 15, 2020, the first day of the government-imposed lockdown on the National Capital Region to curb the spread of the dreaded respiratory disease. Now, the pandemic is expected to reverse gains on poverty reduction, with thousands of families forced to embrace the uncertain, "new normal" future. 

The streets in Barangay North Bay Boulevard South in Navotas City remain busy amid the city-wide lockdown on July 28, 2020. Navotas is placed under city-wide lockdown from July 16 to 29 due to the continuous rising cases of COVID-19. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News


MILITARY APPROACH

Experts have pointed out that instead of taking on a public health approach, the government ended up berating people who were “pasaway” or disobedient, accusing the people of being at fault for the spread of the virus.

In the face of an unprecedented pandemic, Duterte also named his military appointees to key roles in the country’s COVID-19 response.

Instead of installing many checkpoints and apprehending quarantine violators, various groups said the government must focus on mass testing, with advocates clarifying that it does not mean testing all Filipinos.