MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the idea of further de-escalating any area in the country to “Alert Level 0.”
In his weekly taped public address, Duterte said he wanted the overall cases to be down to almost none before agreeing to remove all restrictions.
“Lahat gusto balik na lahat sa [Alert Level] 0 o lahat 1. ‘Di puwede kasi may mga lugar na meron pa. Until such time na talagang almost isa o dalawang [cases] na lang all over the country, ‘yung Alert 1 would still be a good– parang buffer natin,” Duterte said.
(Everyone wants the alert level down to 0 or 1, but that can’t be because other areas still have cases. Until such time that we only have one or two cases all over the country, Alert Level 1 would still be a good buffer.)
Alert Level 1 is what the government considers the “new normal,” where establishments and public transportation are allowed to operate at full capacity.
He added that the virus could still evolve, saying “Diyan magka-problema (That is where a problem could arise).”
Duterte on Tuesday also acknowledged that COVID-19 would be “a part of our lives for a long, long time.”
In March, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the Philippines would likely remain under Alert Level 1 until the end of Duterte’s term on June 30. Duque was actually the one who floated the idea of further de-escalating to Alert Level 0.
During the week of March 28 to April 3, the Philippines logged a total of 2,679 new COVID-19 infections or an average of 382 cases per day.
On Tuesday, Duterte also brought up the issue of soon-to-expire vaccines. He said that the government may give the said doses to other countries aside from embarking on a “last-minute house-to-house program.”
“Ang bakuna, nandiyan para sa lahat ng Pilipino, inorder natin ‘yan. Kung marami pa na ayaw magpabakuna, hindi naman kasalanan ng gobyerno na magbili tayo commensurate to the number of Filipinos that would be vaccinated sana,“ he said.
(The vaccines are there for all Filipinos – we ordered that. If a lot of people refuse to be vaccinated, it’s not the government’s fault that we bought doses commensurate to the number of Filipinos that would be vaccinated ideally.)
But Duque said that the Philippines’ vaccine wastage was still “low” at 1.54% or around 3.7 million doses.
“We’re still okay. We can still do a lot of things for the 27 million doses that are set to expire in July,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Duque said that the department has started doing mobile and house-to-house vaccination drives in a bid to avoid the wastage of vaccines.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. also said that special vaccination days will be rolled out in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is an area of concern due to its low inoculation rate.
On Tuesday, Duque also said that Congress might want to pass a bill that mandates the vaccination of primary doses and booster shots to compel Filipinos to get inoculated. Mandatory vaccination has been a topic in congressional debates, and lawmakers have already pointed out that such a measure could infringe on the constitutional right to health.
Duque also called on candidates for elective posts to include vaccination as part of their campaign.
On Tuesday, the health department announced that the Philippines would be donating COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar and Papua New Guinea. The exact number has yet to be determined by health officials.
So far, 66 million of the country’s 110 million population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while more than 12 million Filipinos have received a booster shot. – Rappler.com