Six months after Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon went under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the Philippines’ harshest level of restriction in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we appear now to be on the downward trend in the number of infections.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chairman of the National Task Force against COVID-19, said Saturday that 3,000 daily infections were reported last Friday, September 4, compared to 10,000 cases the week before. “That means everybody is working. That is what we should do,“ he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) had a similarly encouraging report. In the week from August 29 to September 4, the DOH said, daily new cases ranged from 1,900 to 4,200. This was so much better than the figures for late July to early August, when 5,000 to 7,000 cases daily were being reported.
On the same day that Secretary Lorenzana reported the lowering of Philippine cases, the World Health Organization reported France registered 8,975 new cases in the past 24 hours, the highest figure since the pandemic started in France in March. Paris and other French cities have started requiring facemasks in all public areas, WHO said.
The WHO noted the efforts of some countries like Russia and the United States to rush the widespread use of vaccines they have developed, but it stressed that it would not endorse any vaccine that has not been proven safe and effective. The Russian and US vaccines, along with vaccines in the United Kingdom and China, are still in their final trials, involving tens of thousands of people.
“In terms of realistic timelines, we are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said. It declined to endorse either the Russian or the US vaccine which have not yet completed their final Phase-III tests.
Even without any vaccine, we are doing well enough in the Philippines, relying principally on the restrictions we started to impose on March 16, led by stay-at-home orders, use of face masks, frequent hand-washing, and no physical contact with any other person.
From the original Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), staring March 16, Metro Manila graduated to Modified ECQ (MECQ) on May 16, to General CQ (GCQ) on June 1, back to MECQ on August 4, then a return to GCQ on August 19. Last September 1, Metro Manila remained in GCQ. It should graduate to Modified GCQ, the next lower level of restrictions, if conditions keep improving.
Our hospitals have been able to cope with the big number of cases in our country, so that of the total of 237,365 cases in the country, `184,687 had recovered as of September 6, while 3,875 died. Our goal now is to keep new infections from rising and we seem to be achieving that – through the restrictions to minimize physical contacts. As Secretary Lorenzo said, “This means everybody is working.”
The world COVID-19 picture remains unclear and Is likely to remain so until mass vaccination begins worldwide, but that may come only around the middle of next year. Until that time, we must carry on with the efforts we have been carrying out in our country which, as Secretary Lorenzo said, appear to be working.