It’s a new day in the United States and Israel as their governments finally lifted the wearing of masks in outdoor spaces, something that Vice President Leni Robredo’s camp wishes for the Philippines to achieve, too.
Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesman, said the decision made by Israel early on to buy the vaccines even at a higher price finally paid off. Israel reportedly paid more than the other countries to purchase Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines.
“Oo, kasi inisip nila iyong dagdag nating bayad na iyon, mababawi natin iyan kasi mas maaga tayong makakapagbukas ng ating ekonomiya, ng ating lipunan, mas maagang mali-lift iyong mga restrictions (Yes, because they believe that they can recover from the additional payment since they’ll be reopening the economy earlier, they’ll lift the restrictions earlier),” he said over dzXL.
In the United States, President Joe Biden’s promise of vaccinating 100 million people in his first 100 days in office was achieved in just 58 days. With almost 50 percent of the US’ 332 million population already inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine, Biden recently announced that fully-vaccinated Americans can go without masks in outdoor spaces.
For Robredo’s camp, it’s important to look at the best practices of these countries because the only way for the country to survive the pandemic is to address the gaps in the health care system and to improve the vaccination program.
“So ganoon iyong ano, eh, ganoon iyong gusto nating makita para sa ating bansa sa lalong madaling panahon. So sana, bukod sa nag-i-impose ng ECQ, ng MECQ, tuloy-tuloy iyong ating efforts para mapabilis iyong ating vaccine rollout at magamit nga natin iyong panahon para mapalakas iyong ating healthcare system (So, that’s what we want to see for our country in the soonest possible time. So, hopefully, aside from imposing ECQ or MECQ, we can continue with our efforts to quicken our vaccine rollout and use our time to strengthen the healthcare system),” Gutierrez said.
The National Capital Region Plus (NCR Plus) bubble that includes Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan is under moderate enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until May 14. It is the second most restrictive community quarantine in the country.
Aside from imposing a lockdown, Gutierrez stressed the government should also improve the capacities of hospitals and health care facilities so that Filipinos will not have a hard time looking for a hospital that can accommodate them and their loved ones.
Despite the Department of Health’s (DOH) insistence that the country has not used up its hospital utilization rate, posts on social media tell a different story. Even known personalities are having a hard time looking for an available bed in a hospital in Metro Manila; so much so that people have to sometimes drive to Bicol region to find a hospital that’s not full capacity.
Gutierrez underscored the importance of achieving herd immunity to reopen the country’s economy.
“Kapag nakapag-vaccinate tayo ng 70 million na Pilipino, eh iyon, puwede na tayong bumalik sa, parang normal na pamumuhay natin. Hindi tulad ngayon na dahil napakakaunti pa lang noong nava-vaccinate, talagang napakahigpit pa rin ng mga protocols na kailangan nating sundin (Once we vaccinate 70 million Filipino, we can go back to a sense of normal in our lives. It’s not like now because we’ve only just vaccinated a few, the protocols that we have to follow are really very strict),” he said.
To reach herd immunity by December this year, the country needs to vaccinate more than 300,000 people a day, but the country only has a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Last April, it only received the 1.5 million doses from China’s Sinovac that it purchased. There were only 15,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine which arrived on Labor Day.