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COVID-19 response ‘massive, fast’

Chito Lozada

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The government’s quick reaction to the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had a lot to do with keeping the Philippines among the least affected by the global outbreak and among the countries that have prevented local transmission of the pathogen thus far, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles said.

The Department of Health (DoH) listed 132 patients under investigation (PUI) for covid-19 who are currently admitted in hospitals while 474 PUI were discharged after testing negative.

Two of the three initial confirmed cases of COVID-19 have recovered from the disease, with one fatality, which means there are currently no more confirmed cases in the country, the DoH said.

“I don’t think it’s luck, it has to do with the quick action taken by the government,” Nograles said during the weekly “Straight Talk” with Daily Tribune.

Nograles recalled the first thing that the government did was to activate the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) to set up a strong grass-roots level of monitoring while the local governments were also tasked to activate their own BHERT.

At higher levels of government, Nograles added, actions and decisions were quick both on the health front and on the economic side.

So, the whole of government approach is very important that made all efforts coordinated so that it became a massive coordinated effort both on the top and in the grassroots level, he noted.

“Moreover, the meetings held are relentless amid the emergency situation. Still there are several ‘negatrons’ but we don’t allow ourselves to be affected by them,” he added.

“We counter such negative comments with results,” Nograles indicated.

New quarantine facilities

He said the Department of Health is looking at quarantine facilities all over the country so that when overseas Filipinos return local government units have the facilities to accommodate them.

“We also have to take care of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who do not want to be repatriated to continue, so there’s need for close coordination with our health and foreign affairs officials with the counterparts in the countries where they are located,” Nograles added.

The government, nonetheless, hopes the effects of the disease will not have a strong impact on the cash remittances of OFW.

Nograles estimates a record-high $34.2 billion in OFW transfers to the country this year. In 2019, the remittances reached a record high $33.5 billion.

Impact minimal

The government adjusted its growth projections to 2.2 percent and now expects $34.2 billion in remittances for 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nograles acknowledged the government expects the outbreak to have a “minimal impact” on OFW remittances.

He said mainland China accounts for 0.1 percent of total OFW remittances, while its special administrative regions Macao and Hong Kong account for 0.4 percent, and 2.7 percent, respectively.

“We expect that the COVID-19 outbreak could dampen our total cash remittance growth in 2020 by 0.8 percentage points, from 3.0 percent to 2.2 percent,” he said.

Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) figures showed remittances from the United States, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia may help compensate for the possible slowdown in remittances coming from China, Macao and Hong Kong.

Resiliency remains a virtue

“We are encouraged by historical data that shows that PH remittances have been resilient even in the face of global downtrends,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said economic managers expect “minimal impact” from the COVID-19 outbreak in the agriculture sector, particularly on exports.

He said the country’s banana exports to China are not slowing down.

“While there were previous logistical issues during the Chinese Lunar New Year break, this was only a temporary setback, and our banana exports to China have returned to normal,” he said.

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