President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed optimism that Filipinos would have a happier Christmas this year as the country sees a sharp decline in Covid-19 cases.
In his public address, the President noted that the coronavirus situation in Metro Manila and nearby provinces has improved in recent weeks.
“With God’s grace, we have been recording transmission at a slower rate… This is good news,” he said, speaking partly in the vernacular.
“If we can continue to ramp up vaccination of our people, along with our consistent practice of mask-wearing — don’t remove it — hand washing and physical distancing, and with the gradual resumption of more economic activities, then we can hope for a better and truly merry Christmas,” Duterte added.
Citing data from the Department of Health (DoH), the President noted that the Philippines’ weekly average of new Covid-19 cases dropped to 10,000 this week from some 18,000 last month.
Metro Manila, which is considered as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, recorded over 17,290 active cases of Covid-19 on Sunday — 50 percent lower than the 38,000 active infections logged on 16 September.
Repro rate drop
The region’s Covid-19 reproduction rate also dropped from 1.25 last month to 0.61 this week. The reproduction rate refers to the average number of people who may be directly infected by every Covid-19 carrier in a susceptible population.
Meanwhile, the use of isolation facilities for coronavirus patients with mild symptoms dipped from 72 percent on 16 September to 32 percent on 10 October.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was present at the President’s “Talk to the People,” pointed out that Covid-19 cases and health care utilization rates across regions have been declining, but reminded the public not to be complacent.
He urged Filipinos to continue observing health protocols. Duque also called on local officials to intensify their testing, tracing, and isolation strategies to curb coronavirus transmission.
Duterte attributed the improvements in the Covid-19 situation to the government’s vaccination program.
Citing data from the DoH, he pointed out that 77 percent of Metro Manila’s eligible vaccine beneficiaries have been fully immunized against Covid-19. The number accounts for 7.5 million residents in the capital region.
On the other hand, 91.2 percent of the target number of vaccine recipients in the region have been partially protected against Covid-19 since they received their first doses.
At the national level, some 23.1 million Filipinos or 30 percent of the target population have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, while 26.4 million individuals or 34 percent are still waiting for their second doses.
Duterte said he was hoping that the government would vaccinate at least 50 percent of the country’s target beneficiaries by the end of the year to achieve population protection.
“The challenge is now to further speed up our vaccination rollout, especially in the provinces, in the key cities and municipalities,” he said.
“We are confident that the most, if not all, major cities in the country will be hit and even surpass this target before Christmas,” the President added.
The government on Monday began to vaccinate the general population against Covid-19 as it assured the public that over 100 million doses of vaccines would arrive in the fourth quarter of the year.
Previously, anti-coronavirus shots in the country were only available to five priority groups, namely health workers (A1), the elderly (A2), people with health risks (A3), essential workers (A4), and indigents (A5).
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion on Tuesday said that enterprises will do their best to convince the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to bring down the quarantine level in Metro Manila to bring about a more relaxed Christmas season.
During a virtual meeting with various business owners, Tuesday, Concepcion revealed that with his conversation with Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, and Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos, the Alert Level 4 prevailing in Metro Manila will most likely be retained past 15 October, but with some adjustments.
“But my point is, Level 3 and 2 are doable. The cases are really going down and we are following the same pattern as Thailand and Malaysia. But as I have talked to the DoH, there is still skepticism on the numbers because maybe, we are not testing enough,” Concepcion said.
Concepcion said the majority of business owners are supportive of the move to deescalate to Alert level 2 or 3, provided.
He said he hopes to get the support of business groups like the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Management Association of the Philippines for the de-escalation of the alert level.
“These business owners need to pay their employees 13th-month pay and other obligations. We want to also show that confidence is back within the business community,” Concepcion explained.
with Raffy Ayeng