PH preparing for the ‘worst’ over COVID-19 variants — Duterte

Published May 18, 2021, 9:25 AM

by Raymund Antonio

With new more transmissible and deadly variants of the coronavirus disease, President Duterte said the country must be prepared with its “COVID-19 fight system.”

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a public address on May 18, 2021 (Malacañang)

He praised National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. for his vaccine procurement, which as it stands based on the expected deliverables, may even surpass the number of doses that the country needs to achieve herd immunity.

“I would be happy if you continue to build the infrastructure of our COVID-19 fight system,” Duterte said during the second part of his prerecorded public address aired Tuesday, May 18.

“Because as long as the COVID-19 is here and it would take a lot of time before they finally disappear, if at all. With the advent of new variants, it is good to prepare for a more serious attack,” he added.

Last year, the President allayed public fears of the novel coronavirus.

Back then, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that it’s investigating 80 possible cases of COVID-19. Duterte questioned the “hysterical” response of the public as he also blocked suggestions to impose a travel ban from China, where the virus originated.

Today, Duterte described the new variants of the virus as “a more serious mutant,” and said that “we will just have to prepare for the worst.”

“We will have a problem now with discovering new vaccines and we do not have a guarantee that the vaccines will be forthcoming on time na walang maraming mamatay (that no one will die),” he said.

Last week, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that the double-mutant B.1.617.2 Indian variant has been detected in patients in the country.

The Philippines also has cases of the B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 variants—the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil variants—that triggered localized lockdowns in areas of concern.

Duterte said that Galvez was right to order a large supply of vaccines, most recently a purchase agreement for some 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines, which has long been awaited by Filipinos because of its high efficacy rate of 95 percent against symptoms seven days after the second dose.

Addressing Galvez, the President said he’s right to procure as many vaccine doses as the country can “because there is no way of knowing whether or not (a new) variant of COVID-19 will come up.”

“So, okay ang ating preparasyon (our preparation is okay). We continue to prepare and we calibrate our preparedness in accordance with its propagation. Kung medyo palapit ng palapit na at marami ng tinatamaan (If the variants are here and many are being infected), then we will go full blast in making everything operational,” Duterte added.