Vice President Leni Robredo said the Philippine government must not be caught flat-footed now that the country has detected 11 local cases of the highly-infectious Delta coronavirus variant.
On Friday, July 16, the second highest official in the land uploaded a spontaneous but succinct Facebook Live video urging President Rodrigo Duterte's government to step up against the highly transmissible variant first detected in India.
In her two-minute video, Robredo, who was standing in front of sacks of rice that were donated to her office’s ongoing pandemic relief efforts, said, “Kailangan handa tayo. Ayaw na nating magkaroon ng surge pa ulit dito sa atin.”
(We have to be ready. We don’t want another surge to happen again.)
The Vice President called for an urgent response against the Delta variant, like hastening the speed of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country and ensuring all Filipinos – fully vaccinated or not – strictly follow health protocols like wearing face masks and avoiding public gatherings.
She cited how swiftly the Delta variant has been spreading in neighboring country Indonesia, which has now overtaken India as the new epicenter of the virus in Asia.
As of Thursday, July 15, the world’s 4th most populous country has tallied over 56,000 new infections. There has been a slow vaccine deployment in Indonesia, as only about 5.8% of its 270 million people have received both shots.
The Philippines isn't faring any better in terms of immunization. Only 3% or about 3.8 million out of the country's total population of 109 million has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The global supply problem in vaccine doses has been among the huge constraints for immunization efforts in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
“Sa akin lang, 'yung paalala lang ulit para sa lahat: 'Yung pagsunod sa health protocols, pagsuot ng mask, physical distancing, 'yung pag-iwas sa matataong lugar, magpabakuna. 'Yung mga hindi pa nababakunahan, sana makapagpabakuna tayo,” Robredo appealed.
(Here are my reminders: Follow health protocols, wear your mask, practice physical distancing, avoid overcrowded places, get vaccinated. If you haven’t gotten your shot, please do so.)
Robredo said fully vaccinated Filipinos should not be complacent either, since they could still be carriers of COVID-19.
The Vice President also said the Duterte government must “triple” the speed of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. She said incentives should be created to convince more Filipinos to get vaccinated.
As an example, Robredo mentioned her office’s Vaccine Express project with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, where delivery and public transportation drivers were given a P500-gas incentive after getting their shots.
“‘Yung karanasan kasi namin, lalong nahihikayat 'yung tao na magpabakuna ‘pag merong incentives na binibigay. So maraming mga paraan kung papaano mas mahihikayat 'yung tao na magpabakuna. Sana tingnan natin 'yung iba’t ibang paraan,” Robredo said.
(In our experience, the people become more convinced to get vaccinated when there are incentives. So we should think of ways how to entice the people to get vaccinated. I hope they explore different ways.)
The Duterte government has long been criticized for mismanaging the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines, which has logged over 1.49 million cases with 26,476 deaths and 1.42 million recoveries.
Authorities had been slow adjusting to the earlier reported variants of COVID-19, like the infectious United Kingdom (B117) and South Africa (B1351) variants. To date, the government has yet to explain how the UK variant reached the mountainous municipality of Bontoc in the Mountain Province in January.
The national government was more agile in responding to the Delta variant, imposing a travel ban on India as early as April 29. The Philippines is now barring persons from Indonesia from entering the country from July 16 to 31. – Rappler.com