‘It’s working:’ Palace defends virus response as cases hit 63K
Malacañang on Friday defended the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases breached an earlier projection of 60,000 by the end of July.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government’s response was still “effective,” since millions have been spared from contracting the illness.
“It’s working. Because if we didn’t take steps, then millions would have fallen sick from COVID-19 like what UP (the University of the Philippines) initially predicted. It’s working, because only a small number died from the disease,” Roque said.
UP experts earlier said they expected COVID-19 cases to reach 60,000 by the end of July.
On Friday, they revised their projection to 85,000 by the end of the month.
The experts also recommended the continued implementation of general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila, but with stricter localized response, or reverting to modified enhanced community quarantine to stem the rise in cases.
President Duterte initially agreed with the recommendation for a stricter lockdown, but was persuaded to continue the GCQ in Metro Manila upon the appeal of two Cabinet officials speaking on behalf of Metro Manila mayors.
Roque previously attributed the rise in cases to expanded testing and the reopening of the economy, which meant easing restrictions on public transport, people’s movement and allowing certain industries to resume operations.
“For me, our health is in our hands. We need to wash our hands, wear masks, and practice distancing. Stay in your homes if it is not needed to go out. For the vulnerables like senior citizens, the sick, the pregnant and the youth should also stay home,” he said.
He also urged Filipinos to cooperate with the now mandated facility-based quarantine for mild or asymptomatic cases.
“The important thing is to cooperate, especially with the Oplan Kalinga for the asymptomatic and mild cases. They are spreading the disease if they don’t have their own isolation facility, room and bathroom in their homes,” Roque said.
Virus case update
On Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded an additional 1,841 cases, pushing the national tally to 63,001, up from the previous day’s 61,266 cases.
Of the new cases, 730 are patients who tested positive in the last three days, while 1,131 were confirmed to have been infected four days ago or earlier.
Manila had the most number of new cases at 441, followed by Quezon City (140), Mandaluyong (96), Cebu (87) and Navotas (86).
There are now a total 21,748 patients who have recovered from COVID-19 with the recovery of 311 more patients.
The death toll, however, rose to 1,660 as 17 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.
Of the newly reported deaths, nine occurred this month and six in June. The two others died in April and May.
Health workers’ concerns
Nine of the fatalities were from Metro Manila, four were from Northern Mindanao, two were from Davao, one was from Central Visayas and one was a repatriate.
The DOH reminded hospital chiefs that they should ensure open communication with their staff so they can immediately address the concerns of health workers, particularly those assigned to care for patients infected with COVID-19.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Friday that the DOH had advised hospital chiefs to be proactive in addressing their staff’s concerns, such as the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as proper compensation.
“We always tell them to take care of our health-care workers whenever they have complaints. They should sit down so that [these issues] do not go out of the hospitals anymore since these are internal issues that can be easily solved if they just talk,” Vergeire said.
Health workers at San Lazaro Hospital, a COVID-19 referral facility in Metro Manila, had earlier claimed that they were overworked and underprotected at the hospital.
Vergeire said the hospital’s administration assured the DOH that it still had “adequate supply” of PPE and that the 14-day quarantine for health workers isn’t deducted from their leave credits.
“All of these issues that are being raised by the association of employees of San Lazaro, these have been discussed and the demands are being met,” Vergeire said.
She added: “[The San Lazaro administration] is also looking into what are the concerns of each unit. Maybe, daily discussions will be able to solve the employees’ concerns. We can always join in these talks so that there will already be a resolution [to the issues] and peace will be restored in the hospital so that everyone can work properly.”
Earlier, the DOH launched an emergency hiring program to ensure that there would be enough personnel in the various hospitals and quarantines, given that health workers at the forefront of the COVID-19 response would have to undergo a two-week quarantine after every 14 days of duty.
To date, a total of 5,216 medical front-liners have been hired by the DOH. There are also 334 postresidency physicians deployed in the priority health facilities as well as 3,830 public health associates assigned in the regional epidemiology and surveillance units to assist in contact tracing and surveillance efforts. —WITH A REPORT FROM JOVIC YEE
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.