President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on March 22, 2021. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Mar 23 (Mabuhay) — No, we are not back to square one.

The Philippines is more equipped in confronting the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, assured National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday.

Galvez, also the vaccine czar, said the government is doing its best to end the health crisis.

“We have been here before but we are not back to square one. We are in much better shape now and more equipped in dealing and handling this virus,” Galvez said in a statement.

“Your government is continuously monitoring the development and the mutations of the disease to ensure that we will be able to protect our healthcare system and prevent it from being overwhelmed,” he added.

Since the onslaught of the pandemic, Galvez said the country’s testing capacity has improved.

From one laboratory last year, there are now 229 that caters to more than 50,000 tests daily.

“This is very important in widening our net to separate and isolate the infected individuals,” Galvez reported.

The Department of Public Works and Highways, along with the private sector, established some 602 temporary treatment and monitoring facilities with a total bed capacity of 22,352.

In preparation for the emergence of new Covid-19 variants and the possible surge of cases, Galvez said another 720 facilities with a total bed capacity of 26,099 are slated to be completed and turned over in April.

There will also be a 110-bed capacity pop-up hospital nearing completion.

Discipline, cooperation

Like a familiar refrain, Galvez called on the public to continue adhering to the minimum public health standards as the government enforced “decisive and drastic measures” to prevent the further spread of the infection.

“It is only through our diligent observation of minimum public health standards that we can collectively beat this pandemic and move forward towards the new normal,” he said. “Your support and cooperation, through maintaining social distance, the accurate wearing of face masks and shields, and frequent washing of hands, are very much needed as we face new and highly transmissible variants of Covid-19.”

He said cooperation can combat the pandemic.

“With the continuous rise of Covid-19 cases in the country, we again appeal to everyone to work together in slowing down the infection rate,” he said.

Safety measures include scaling down the number of people reporting to various offices and entering business establishments as well as capping the entry of inbound international passengers to 1,500 until April 21.

Local government units can impose “granular lockdowns” when necessary.

Improved contact tracing efforts

“In terms of contact tracing, efforts to re-capacitate our LGUs through the Department of Interior and Local Government and assistance from the World Health Organization are now being conducted to ensure that expanded contact tracing up to second and third generations contact will be implemented across the country,” he said.

The Department of Health also improved its care and treatment of Covid-19 cases, healthcare personnel support, provision of personal protective equipment kits to health workers as well as the conduct of regular testing.

Galvez reiterated that the government is committed to inoculate some 70 million adults this year.

“This is an unprecedented mission in the history of the country. It is a daunting task, but we will do it,” he said.

Vaccine supplies

Meanwhile, Galvez explained that various vaccine manufacturers are scrambling to produce enough supplies.

“Vaccine manufacturers are having difficulty in scaling up their vaccine productions since some countries such as the US are banning the export of raw materials, which is deeply affecting the global supply in the first semester of this year,” he said.

Despite the limited global supply of Covid-19 vaccines, Galvez said the government remained steadfast to push an orderly system for the national vaccination program.

The Philippines is slated to receive 2.3 million doses of vaccines towards the end March until early April, Galvez said.

The bulk of vaccines will arrive between May and June onwards, he added. Some eight million doses will arrive in April and another five million in May.

“To date, the schedule of deliveries of our vaccine supply remains on track as we have planned and projected,” he said.

“As soon as the vaccines are available in your area and for your sector, we highly encourage you to get it immediately. For those next in the list and waiting to be inoculated, we ask you to please keep yourselves and your family healthy.”

Galvez reminded that the vaccine is not a cure.

“This is just an added protection to prevent us from getting severe symptoms and avoid hospitalization which is why even with the vaccines available, everyone should still observe and comply with minimum public health standards,” Galvez said. (MNS)

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