By Martin Sadongdomg
The government’s preparations to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may last until September to December as the public is advised to ready themselves for a “new normal” way of living, the national response team bared on Tuesday.
National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the discipline and cooperation of everybody are the “key” to keep the infection rate low and for the possible “gradual” lifting of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). He said the problem is that not all communities are following the government’s preventive measures, such as staying at home and practicing social distancing.
“To tell you frankly, mukhang ang preparation natin siguro September hanggang December (our preparation may last until September to December),” Galvez said in a radio interview over dzMM.
The task force chief particularly pointed out the supposed rising COVID-19 cases in the capital city of Manila, Quezon City, and San Juan City because the lockdown is not being enforced “faithfully.”
“Nanawagan po ako sa area ng Manila nakikita namin, sa observation namin, tumataas ang cases hindi talaga faithfully na-a-ano ‘yung lockdown. Nakita natin sa areas ng Quezon City, San Juan ang daming tao pa rin na nagkalat sa kalsada (I appeal to the Manila [government], based on our observation the cases are rising since the lockdown is not being [enforced] faithfully. We have also observed that in Quezon City and San Juan, a lot of people are still loitering the streets),” Galvez said.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso placed Barangay 20 in Parola Compound, Tondo which is home to about 40,000 people under a 24-hour lockdown from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 8 p.m. Wednesday after it was reported that ECQ and social distancing measures are not being observed.
Meanwhile, hundreds reportedly trooped to a public market in Quezon City recently to buy food and other groceries while apparently failing to observe social distancing.
“Nananawagan kami na talagang patience at discipline na sumunod tayo. ‘Yung mga lugar na sumusunod, nakita namin na bumababa ang kaso. Dapat sumunod tayo, just stay home at kung hindi kailangan lumabas, huwag lalabas (We call on the public to have patience and discipline to follow the measures. The areas which follow, we have seen that there is a decline in the number of cases. We should all follow, just stay home and if it’s not necessary to go out, do not go out),” Galvez said.
“We have to face reality. Nakita natin hangga’t wala pang vaccine, hindi na pwede ‘yung barkadahan, inuman, ‘yung talagang magkakalat sa kalsada. Hindi na po natin kaya ‘yun (We have seen that until there’s no vaccine yet, we can no longer standby or drink along the streets, or loiter. We cannot afford to do that anymore),” he added.
Even if ECQ is gradually lifted, Galvez said measures such as physical and social distancing must remain since they are part of the “new norm.”
“Hindi na tayo pwede mabuhay na dating gawi. Nakikita natin kahit mass transport kailangan may social distancing. Nakikita natin baka kailangan na may nakalagay na paa sa tatapakan niyo para ma-observe ang social distancing at may norms na gagawin natin (We cannot live in a way like we used to. We can see that even in mass transport, we need to have social distancing. We might need to put markers just to ensure that social distancing and the new norms that we will create are observed),” he said.
“‘Yung sinasabi nga ni (Just like what) Cabinet Secretary [Karlo] Nograles (is saying), we will create a new norm. Hangga’t walang (Until there is no) vaccine, we cannot live the same way of life right now. Social distancing is becoming a norm now,” he noted.
Manila, epicenter of COVID-19 in PH?
Based on his estimates, Galvez said there might be at least 200,000 to 300,00 undetected COVID-19 cases nationwide as he underscored the need for an “aggressive” targeted mass testing and contact tracing.
“To be honest, we want to be transparent. Ang assessment ng specialists kung ang namatay ay more than 300 at yung cases now ay more or less 5,000 na ngayon nakikita natin na more or less 75 percent pa hindi natin nakikita na lumalakad at nakakasalamuha natin na most probably potential COVID cases (To be honest, we want to be transparent, the assessment of specialists is that if we have more than 300 deaths and more or less 5,000 cases now, we can see that more or less 75 percent of the cases remain undetected who continue to roam around and engage the communities. Most probably these are potential COVID cases),” he said.
Of these, Galvez said the government is looking for 15,000 possible virus carriers, a big portion of which is in the city of Manila which he described as the “epicenter” of the COVID-19 in the Philippines.
“Mayroon kaming 15,000 na hinahanap, ‘yun talaga ang backlog natin in real sense. Sa 15,000 more or less 5,000 to 8,000 ang nasa Manila. Ang strategy natin ay Manila first kasi ito ang epicenter ng COVID cases (We are looking for 15,000 [possible carriers], that’s our backlog in real sense. Of these, more or less 5,000 to 8,000 are in Manila. Our strategy is Manila first because it is the epicenter of the COVID cases),” he revealed.
Once the situation in Manila is placed under control, Galvez said the Philippines “can win the battle” against COVID-19.
“Sa (In a) military point of view, that will be the decisive point or center of gravity,” he said.
As of Monday, the Philippines has 4,932 confirmed cases with 315 deaths and 242 recoveries, according to the Department of Health.
Several areas in Metro Manila such as Valenzuela, Manila, Quezon City, Pasig, and Muntinlupa have started their localized mass testing to detect, isolate, and treat the virus-carriers in their areas of jurisdiction.