Robredo gives suggestions to gov’t amid COVID-19 surge: ‘Huwag sana masamain’

Published March 21, 2021, 1:36 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Vice President Leni Robredo presented a seven-item suggestion list on Sunday, March 21, to help the country deal with the surging coronavirus cases, as well as the rollout of the vaccines to frontline health workers. 

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Robredo posted the list of suggestions on Facebook, among which are the ways on how the government could improve its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our problem at hand is huge. We have to deal with this collectively. Huwag sana masamain ang suggestions (May they not resent the suggestions),” Robredo said.

In the past, the Duterte administration claimed that Robredo is politicizing the issues while the vice president’s camp noted that the administration resorts to name-calling whenever she makes suggestions. 

In her weekly radio show, she also questioned the government’s readiness to deploy the vaccines it received from China’s Sinovac and Oxford AstraZeneca, both of which are either a direct donation or donated through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX facility. 

On granular lockdowns

Several barangays in Metro Manila have been put under granular lockdowns as the country’s COVID-cases surged to 7,999 on Saturday alone. 

Robredo said that this equates to a positivity rate of 15.7 percent and a 2.03 reproduction number, both of which are way above the target of less than 5 percent for the positivity rate and below 1 for the reproduction number.

“I hope we are doing massive testing, contact tracing and isolation especially in areas that are on surgical lockdowns,” the vice president said, noting that lockdowns will mean nothing without testing, tracing, and treating.

On vaccine rollout

The opposition leader called on the government “to improve our vaccine rollout.”

Quoting the Department of Health (DOH), Robredo said that from March 1 to 17, only 269,583 health frontliners were inoculated. That represents only 23.95 percent of the available vaccines from Sinovac and AstraZeneca. 

The average of 15,857 per day will not be enough to reach herd immunity, or the vaccination of more than 70 million Filipinos, by December. 

On herd immunity

The government target is rightfully to vaccinate 70 percent of the population, the vice president said. 

However, with a 73,500,000 target for herd immunity, Robredo stressed that the government must inoculate an average of 256,993 people per day for the next 286 remaining days in 2021.

“We are so far off the target at the rate we are going now,” she said.

Herd immunity happens when the virus can’t spread in a community because it keeps on encountering people who are protected against the virus. 

On logistics issues

Robredo countered Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s claim that they cannot rush the inoculation of health frontliners “kasi mauubusan tao sa mga ospital kung sabay sabay sila tuturukan (because the hospital will lose its staff if they will be vaccinated simultaneously).”

“This is what we have been asking since last year: prepare the deployment plan, treat it as a logistics problem, identify and train vaccinators, prepare large vaccination centers that will make possible a more efficient rollout,” she said.

Robredo added that although vaccine supply is a problem, the government should also maximize the use of the available supply it now has. 

“Pero yung konting supply na dumating sa atin, hindi pa natin ma deploy with speed and dispatch (We cannot even deploy with speed and dispatch what little supply we have). Let us assess where the bottlenecks are. 1M pa lang supply natin, pero in 17 days hindi pa nga tayo naka 50 percent utilization, papaano na kung 70M na yung available? (We only have one million supply but in 17 days, we haven’t even reached 50 percent utilization, so what will happen if we have the vaccines for the 70 million?),” she asked.

On regulating the private sector

The vice president noted the big help being given and offered by the private sector, but said that the government should not “over-regulate” it.

“Let us not make it difficult for private companies to participate,” Robredo said. 

While bigger companies can accommodate the government’s demand to hand over 50 percent of its purchase to the government, smaller businesses will have a harder time with the regulation.

“But for smaller businesses who only want to make their employees safe para makapag bukas na ng negosyo, huwag na natin masyadong pahirapan pa (to open their businesses, let us not make it difficult),” she said.

“There are best practices already available. Indonesia and India are among the countries who are allowing private sector to participate. Okay naman to have rules and parameters, (but hopefully) don’t make it too difficult for them. After all, for every Filipino who gets the vaccine, the entire community benefits.”

The same should be done for local government units that want to vaccinate their constituents. The government needs to “capacitate and help them.”

On a stimulus package

The financial assistance given to low-income families in April last year is not enough, the vice president stressed, adding that a “stimulus package” similar to what Malaysia has done is needed. 

When Malaysia started to reopen its economy, the cases surged, too. However, “they were able to arrest the situation.”

Among the many things Malaysia has done is to provide six stimulus packages for their citizens. 

 
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