“Together, we shall fight this pandemic with the same fervor as our campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, insurgency, and corruption in high places and entrenched parochial interests.”
This was what President Duterte vowed in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year—to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with the “same fervor” as his trademark campaigns.
President Duterte asked the public to put their faith in the government, and work with it in achieving what would be best for the country and the people. Now that the President is about to deliver his last SONA, how did his administration fair in fulfilling his promise?
The Philippines has been battling COVID-19 since March last year, and it was highlighted by lockdowns, face mask and face shield wearing, hand washing, social distancing, RT-PCR tests, and vaccinations.
With this formula, Malacañang said the country had been doing well, in terms of the daily number of cases, until the number of infections in Metro Manila and nearby areas surged in March this year.
This prompted the government to place Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under a general community quarantine (GCQ) bubble that was later on escalated to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). From this arose the NCR-Plus bubble.
The NCR-Plus bubble stayed under strict lockdown in June until restrictions were eased and the bubble was effectively dissolved this month.
These more relaxed quarantine classifications, however, may not last long due to the entry of a new form of the unseen enemy: the Delta variant.
The Philippines has been on guard against the Delta variant with eight countries already in its travel ban effective until the end of the month. But on July 16, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the local transmission of the more contagious strain.
Recognizing the threat it poses, President Duterte warned the public that strict restrictions may be reimposed to prevent its spread. The Delta variant was first detected in India and was believed to have caused the spike of cases in many countries, including Indonesia.
Experts said that the Delta variant was 40 to 60 percent more transmissible or could infect up to eight people.
As of July 20, the country has 35 cases of the Delta variant.
But according to the President, there was only one solution to the crisis: vaccination.
The Philippines started its vaccination program against COVID-19 on March 1 after receiving 600,000 doses of Sinovac shots donated by the Chinese government on Feb. 28.
The government has a clear priority list, beginning with healthcare workers and their immediate families, outgoing overseas Filipino workers, and local chief executives for the A1 group. This group is followed by senior citizens (A2), persons with comorbidities (A3), economic frontliners (A4), and the indigent population (A5).
The country has 27,922,360 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of June 19. This supply is composed of six different brands, including Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Janssen vaccine.
As of July 20, the country has administered 15,616,562 COVID-19 vaccine doses with 5,031,301 individuals already fully vaccinated.
President Duterte, who was, himself, fully vaccinated last week, has been stressing the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. He once admitted that he was already “exasperated” convincing the public to take the shot.
“Vaccines lang ito talaga (Vaccines are really the answer),” he had said.
“The importance of vaccines, you must get the vaccine or you die. Ilang beses na ‘yang sinasabi (We’ve been saying that), many times,” he added.
Last month, he threatened to order the arrest of those who refuse to take the shot but on Monday, he appealed to them that if they still did not want to get vaccinated, they should never leave their house.
“Kung ayaw talaga ninyo maniwala, ‘wag na lang kayo lumabas ng bahay para wala kayo mahawa (If you don’t really want to believe, then just don’t leave your house so you won’t infect others),” Duterte said.
“Itong mga buang na ito (These fools), they not only endanger themselves and their family, but everybody they come in contact with,” he added.
Numbers, numbers, numbers…
As of July 20, the country has reported 1,517,903 COVID-19 cases, making the Philippines the 23rd country with the most number of cases worldwide based on data from the Johns Hopkins University. The Philippines also logged 1,444,253 recoveries and 26,844 deaths from the disease.
Meanwhile, according to the July 20, 2021 data from the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 dashboard, the Philippines was 33rd in terms of active cases, 132nd in terms of the number of cases per 100,000 population, and 87th in terms of case fatality rate at 1.8 percent.
As of July 20, the DOH reported the following bed capacities nationwide:
· ICU beds (3,500 total): 54 percent utilized
· Isolation beds (19,400 total): 46 percent utilized
· Ward beds (12,000 total): 43 percent utilized
· Ventilators (2,800 total): 36 percent utilized
Meanwhile, the DOH reported the following bed utilization rate in NCR:
· ICU beds (1,100 total): 42 percent utilized
· Isolation beds (4,700 total): 38 percent utilized
· Ward beds (3,400 total): 34 percent utilized
· Ventilators (1,000 total): 34 percent utilized
In terms of testing laboratories, as of July 21, 2021, the Philippines has 276 licensed COVID-19 testing labs, 145 were private-owned based on the DOH website.