Duterte prioritizes vaccine rollout over quarantine easing

Published February 23, 2021, 2:35 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

“A little more time” is what President Duterte is asking for after he thumbed down a proposal to relax the country’s community quarantine level by next month.


The President wanted to see a “good and successful” rollout of the coronavirus vaccines before making a decision on whether or not to place the country under least restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

The country’s first shipment of the Sinovac vaccines is expected to be delivered soon after the Chinese firm secured an emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The President is just asking for a little more time,” Nograles said during a televised press briefing Tuesday, Feb. 23.

“Ang step-by-step process para sa kanya is vaccination rollout muna (His step-by-step process is vaccination rollout first). Let’s wait and let’s see a good and successful rollout of the vaccination. Makita lamang na nagsimula ‘yung vaccination program na may nakakuha na ng bakuna, may nabakunahan na (When he sees the start of the vaccination program where people are vaccinated), and then he will make the decision about MGCQ for the entire country,” he added.

On Monday Feb. 22, Malacañang announced that the President has decided the country would not be placed under MGCQ unless there is a rollout of the vaccines. Duterte has given “higher premium” on public health and safety even though he was aware of the importance of further opening the economy and its impact on the livelihood of the people. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque added that the President “wants vaccination to start the soonest possible time in order to ease the community quarantine.”

Acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) head Karl Kendrick Chua earlier recommended to the President to place the country under MGCQ to curb rising hunger incidence and stimulate economic activity.  The other NEDA recommendation to resume the dry run on face-to-face classes in low-risk areas has already been rejected by the President Duterte until the start of the immunization program.

In Tuesday’s press briefing, Nograles said the President pressed for the COVID-19 vaccination of the people especially the essential health workers at the start of the Cabinet meeting.

“He was saying he is really considering na ‘yung MGCQ will have to wait until the vaccination rollout so parang ‘yung statement niya there’s a time for everything,” Nograles said. 

“He wants to see a vaccination rollout first. Once that’s being seen and felt on ground, being made in actuality, then siya mag-decide sa MGCQ for entire Philippines,” he said.

With around 170 million coronavirus vaccine orders in the pipeline, the government aims to give free inoculations to around 70 million people this year in a bid to attain herd immunity. The delivery of the vaccines however hit a snag over issues related to vaccine suppliers’ indemnity requirements and compliance with regulatory approval.