President Rodrigo Duterte warned he might impose a stricter lockdown should COVID-19 infections surge again, and if people continue to violate health protocols, adding that the country must prepare for the worst.
In a taped speech aired Tuesday morning, the President said a contagious coronavirus variant is more dangerous and would bring more hardship to the people and economy.
“Our only hope is really obedience, like a boy scout. You want to end the danger of COVID-19 engulfing this country,” the President said, adding “if not, I will be forced to impose lockdowns and everything.”
He lauded the National Task Force on COVID-19 and its leader, Secretary Carlito Galvez, for its preparations even with an excess of caution “because there is no way of knowing whether or not a new variant of the COVID-19 will come up.”
“We continue to prepare, and we calibrate our preparedness in accordance with each propagation, if at all, and with the advent of new variants, it is good to prepare for a more serious attack,” Duterte said.
The President also said that although the government has already spent close to a trillion pesos to combat the coronavirus, he was prepared to sell government assets and spend even more to fight the new virus variants.
“We have spent maybe on the final counting, almost a trillion, and there’s no, I said, an end in sight, that this will end, or the new variants will take over,” he said.
The chief executive also said that those who would refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 should just “stay home.”
Duterte, who already received a China-made vaccine to bolster public confidence in the jabs, reiterated his call for people to get vaccinated.
The President said the country must prepare for the worst should a “more serious” COVID-19 variant hit the country.
“I would be happy if you continue to build the infrastructure of our COVID-19 fight system because for as long as COVID-19 is here, it would take a lot of time before it would finally disappear,” he said.
He said people should not fear the effect of vaccines because no one has died from the jabs.
Duterte said the government cannot force people to get the vaccine but added: “I hope that if you don’t want to get vaccinated, don’t leave your house so that you won’t infect others.”
He said people not vaccinated might spread the virus and he doesn’t want that to happen.
“Once you have difficulty in breathing, you will be brought to the hospital, no one can get near you except doctors who are in PPE to avoid being infected. When you die, you will be brought straight to the morgue. You will not be able to kiss your loved ones goodbye,” he said.
The Philippines logged on Tuesday 4,487 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest announced in more than two months, bringing the total number of cases to 1,154,388, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
Tuesday’s newly reported cases is the lowest since March 17 this year, when the DOH announced 4,387 new cases.
All laboratories were operational on May 16, 2021 but eight were unable to submit their data to the COVID-19 Document Repository System (CDRS) on time.
Based on data in the last 14 days, the eight non-reporting labs contribute, on average, 2.5 percent of samples tested and 2.7 percent of positive individuals.
Only 26,672 people underwent testing on Sunday, where 13 percent were found positive for the virus.
The DOH reported 110 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 19,372, which is 1.68 percent of the total.
The DOH also reported 6,383 recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 1,082,725, which is 93.8 percent of the total.
This left 52,291 active cases, which is 4.5 percent of the total number of cases. Of the active cases, 93.1 percent were mild, 2.2 percent were asymptomatic, 1.5 percent were critical, 2 percent were severe, and 1.29 percent were moderate.
The DOH also reported that nationwide, 57 percent of the ICU beds, 44 percent of the isolation beds, 48 percent of the ward beds, and 39 percent of the ventilators were in use.
In Metro Manila, 56 percent of the ICU beds, 41 percent of the isolation beds, 44 percent of the ward beds, and 43 percent of the ventilators were in use.
On Monday evening, President Rodrigo Duterte called on the public to get their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible or else risk getting sick or infecting others.
As of mid-May, more than3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered.
The DOH noted a “marked decline” in infections and hospital occupancy in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces—also called NCR Plus— but flagged a rising COVID-19 trend in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Ten regions posted a positive case growth rate and increased average daily attack rate (ADAR) in the past two weeks: Regions 4B, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Caraga, and the Bangsamoro, said DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea De Guzman, in a forum.
The rise in cases in these areas was caused in part by relaxed adherence to health protocols and the spread of new coronavirus variants, she said.
Despite the case increase, De Guzman said there was no need to escalate the lockdown classification in the 10 regions since their health care systems can still cope.
DOH data showed that the occupancy rate of intensive care unit (ICU), isolation, and ward beds in Region 9 has breached the high-risk category at 75 percent.
In the Bangsamoro, 83 percent of ICU beds were in use as of May 15.
All other areas were in the safe zone.
De Guzman urged local government units (LGUs) to strengthen border screening for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure to cut the transmission of the coronavirus.
She reported that NCR Plus (Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal) continues to see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases after being placed under a stricter quarantine classification.
Metro Manila was classified as moderate risk even after consistently registering a negative case growth rate because its ADAR remained high at 13.44 cases per 100,000 population.
De Guzman said many Filipinos are hesitant to seek medical attention once they develop COVID-19 symptoms due to fear of losing their income during the mandatory quarantine period.
She said it takes up to 12 days after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms for some people to seek medical consultation or testing. One factor behind this long period is the tendency to set aside mild symptoms like fever, cough, and colds, she said.
Another factor is the concern about going into quarantine or isolation.
“If I become symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19, I would need to isolate myself. What about my work, my income?’ she said at an online forum.
“That’s why we’re appealing to our employers [and] to our agencies concerned with our labor force, that we really need to be able to have mechanisms in place so that the possible loss of income or employment does not become a deterrent [to] consultation and isolation or quarantine,” De Guzman said.
Also on Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Metro Manila is at “moderate risk” from the threat of COVID-19 as infections have slowed down.
In a public address aired Tuesday, Duque said the two-week COVID-19 growth rate in NCR went down from negative 39 percent to negative 46 percent from May 2 to 15.
The average daily attack rate in NCR also decreased from 24.9 cases per 100,000 population to 13.44 cases per 100 population from in the same period, Duque said.
“This means that the increase in cases is slowing down,” Duque said.
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