‘More jabs into arms’ key to effective containment

Published June 16, 2021, 12:28 AM

by Manila Bulletin

For the second half of June, Metro Manila and Bulacan shall be under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) “with some restrictions” while the rest of the areas under the National Capitol Region (NCR) plus bubble remain under GCQ “with heightened restrictions.”

President Duterte’s latest announcement echoes the Department of Health’s assessment that while nationwide, the rate of new COVID-19 infections may be on a ‘plateau’, many areas in Mindanao and a few areas in Luzon and Visayas are experiencing a surge.  Hence, a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) remains in force in seven areas in Luzon; Iloilo and Negros Oriental; and in 13 other areas, namely: Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Zamboanga City and four Zamboanga provinces; Butuan City, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, and Surigao del Sur.

The Average Daily Attack Rate (ADAR) that measures the rate of infection per 100,000 of the population provides a clearer explanation for the latest quarantine classification.  The nationwide ADAR is 5.96, while Metro Manila stands at 6.76.  But Metro Manila’s ADAR has decreased by 16 percent, in contrast to the rising ADAR in Cagayan Valley, 18 percent; Caraga, 46 percent; and Western Visayas, 63 percent.

For areas under the normal GCQ, indoor dining; indoor and outdoor sports; personal care establishments; indoor and outdoor tourism; and venues for meetings, conferences, incentives, and exhibitions are all allowed up to 50 percent of their capacity. Religious activities can accommodate participants up to 30 percent of its venue capacity but local government units (LGUs) are allowed to raise it to 50 percent.  These norms — which offer a “getting back to normal” scenario — are calibrated in the “some restrictions” and “heightened restrictions” scenarios.  MECQ is currently the strictest classification, although it is still a step removed from the most severe ECQ status.

The government is ramping up its call for vaccination as deliveries have surpassed the 12-million mark.  Vaccination of essential workers has already begun. Reuters reports that as of June 14, a total of 6,314,548 doses of COVID vaccines have been administered. Further acceleration of the vaccination rate and more extensive coverage of the population are imperative for meeting the government’s goal of “population protection.”

President Duterte has appealed anew to Filipinos to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves from critical illness and death.  He warned those who are hesitant or adamant about the dire consequences of their refusal. Indeed, a high degree of hesitancy had been spawned by the protracted delay in the arrival of vaccines.

Vaccine deliveries have accelerated and more jabs have gone into arms.  Concerned stakeholders such as employers and local government leaders have also stepped up efforts to draw in more people into vaccination centers.  In one Metro Manila city, there is an ongoing “May Bahay sa Bakuna” promo, offering a house and lot, motorcycles and other attractive prizes.

Perhaps, the prospect of a “Merrier Christmas” could also motivate more Filipinos to believe that indeed, getting vaccinated is the key to victory over COVID-19.