Gov’t to pursue new, invigorated response against COVID-19
President Duterte is set to announce the new quarantine status today even as Malacañang said there will now be major changes in the government’s response against the COVID19 pandemic as the number of people infected by the disease have surpassed the 85,000 cases projected by month’s end by University of the Philippines (UP) experts.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced this before the Philippines reported on Wednesday 85,486 cases of COVID-19, 26,996 recoveries, and 1,962 deaths.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Roque said the IATF already has a recommendation to President Duterte on the quarantine status but appeals by local government units (LGUs) are expected and these need to be finalized.
“I can’t announce it because the President will be the one to make the announcement on Thursday if I’m not mistaken,” he said.
“There are still appeals to be made by local government units so the recommendations are all preliminary subject to finalization on Thursday,” he added. Roque, however, said that things will not be the same in how the government will address COVID-19.
“Things will not be the same. There will be major changes in our response to the pandemic,” he said.
NCR a living experiment
Roque said he National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) is a living experiment in the government’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but expressed confidence that it will be a successful one in the end.
According to Roque, it will still be the case-doubling rate and critical care capacity that will determine Metro Manila’s fate whether it will stay in the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) status or be elevated to a stricter quarantine level.
“Our case doubling rate is fine. We’re now at 8.9. We actually improved because the longer the better,” he said.
“It’s the critical care capacity that’s the problem because (for) ICU beds, we’ve reached 80,” he added.
Roque emphasized the Philippines now has the capability to do what it wanted to do from the very beginning of the global health crisis.
“It’s not so much the classification that will matter but the responses – the new, invigorated responses that we will have against the COVID19 pandemic,” he said.
“The people will now see the difference in the response that we will have. It is now thoroughly invigorated.
Part of it is we’ve built capacity, and now we have the capacity to do what we wanted from the very beginning,” he added.
Intensified testing The Palace official said the invigorated response against COVID-19 involves intensified testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment.
Roque said the government will use its capacity to conduct more and cheaper testing on a daily basis, more than the 30,000 tests a day that it can already do.
“Massive, massive targeted testing involving pooled testing that will multiply our actual testing by 10 and will reduce the cost of PCR testing to as low as ₱300 per person,” he said.
The average cost of PCR testing is around ₱3,000 and it can go down to as low as ₱300 with pooled testing where one kit will be used to test 10 individuals.
“We will have pilot testing immediately after the new classifications are announced and this will be a joint effort of the government and the private sector through the Project ARK,” he said.
According to Roque, the government has reinvigorated its tracing using the method of tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong that will hopefully allow the Philippines to trace contacts of infected persons up to the third degree like what Thailand and Vietnam did.
He said the government will not just rely on those paid to become tracers but on volunteers as well. “We are going to build an army of volunteers courtesy of training material to be provided by Mayor Magalong so that we can intensify testing hopefully as Thailand and Vietnam did up to the third degree of tracing,” he said.
The Palace official said the government is also eyeing to tap broadcast networks to devote one of their programs to train individuals on how they can effectively become tracers.
Intensified isolation Roque said the government will build more isolation facilities, reiterating that mild and asymptomatic patients cannot stay home unless they have their own bedroom and bathroom.
He added that the government will convert the mega drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija as a mega isolation facility.
The government, according to Roque, will likewise rationalize hospital beds and ICU beds.
“If the hospital beds and ICU beds in Metro Manila are at a critical level, we will tap even the bed capacity of neighboring regions III and IV-A to refer patients to their vacant ICU or hospital beds,” he said.