Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr, in his press briefing today, April 22, 2021, underscored the national government’s strategy to focus resources and concentrate on increasing intensive care unit (ICU) capacity to address the current surge in COVID-19 cases and to allow the possible lowering of community quarantine classifications and the reopening of the economy.
“Ang kinakailangan po talaga nating dagdagan ngayon ay ang ICU beds. Mukhang hindi po critical ang isolation beds, ang ating ward beds, at saka ang mga TTMFs, we have more than enough. Pero kinakailangan talaga damihan yung ICU beds,” stressed Secretary Roque in his press briefing in Malacañang today, April 22, 2021.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) Deputy Chief Implementer and Testing Czar Secretary Vince Dizon, who was a resource person in the said press briefing, reported that public and private hospitals have already committed an additional 176 ICU beds, which when activated can lower ICU utilization rate to roughly 70 plus percent.
Sec. Roque said that if this 70 percent ICU utilization rate is achieved, it will make ICU utilization rate fall into the moderate category, which he said would probably justify lower quarantine classification.
“Yung sinabi ni Sec. Dizon kanina na 176 additional, yan po ay crucial kung gusto nating magbaba ng quarantine classification at magbukas ng ekonomiya dahil kinakailangan mapaghandaan natin yung mga magkakasakit ng critical at magkaroon ng ICU beds,” Roque said.
Roque also talked about the plan to convert regular beds in some hospitals in the country to ICU beds. “We are aiming to add, in addition to the 176 na vinolunteer na, additional 200 sana po,” Roque said. However, he stressed that this is still at an early stage where they are currently asking hospitals how many of their regular rooms can be converted to ICU beds.
The Palace spokesman also underscored that aside from increasing the actual ICU capacity, the national government has also started to employ the strategy of transferring those mild to moderate cases to step-down care facilities or Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities or TTMFS.
Meanwhile, Sec. Dizon made mention that the government spends roughly an average of about P3,000 per individual for about 1,500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) per day. Dizon stressed although this costs the government some P4.5-M, subjecting the OFWs to strict 14-day quarantine is necessary to protect the families of the OFWs and ensure protection for Filipinos.
Secretary Roque underscored that the problem with financing the quarantine of returning OFWs started when the quarantine protocol was extended to full 14 days, which resulted in additional expenses for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
“Dati-rati one to three days lang po ang bayad nila sa hotel at 3,000 a day. Ngayon po nagiging seven to nine days, so ang natitirang budget po as of April 16 na budget ng OWWA para po sa quarantine facilities, transportation, food/meals, cremation/funeral services ay P1.4 billion. At ang sabi po ng OWWA ay inaasahan nilang mauubos ito by mid-May,” said Secretary Roque.
However, the concurrent Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) spokesperson assured that the Department of Budget and Management has guaranteed that the agency will find a source of additional funding for OWWA. “Ang additional na kinakailangan po ng OWWA dahil nga po dito sa mas matagal na quarantine ay tumaas po ng 10,626,370 para lang sa quarantine facilities,” said Sec. Roque. He added that the OWWA now needs an additional budget of PhP 9,884,583,147.
Also in the same press briefing, NTF Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr confirmed the arrival today of another delivery of Sinovac vaccines from China. Sec. Galvez also confirmed the possible arrival of Gamaleya/Sputnik vaccines by April 25. Sec. Galvez also reported that as of April 21, 2021, 1,612,420 vaccines have already been administered, and 1,397,628 Filipinos have been vaccinated. ### OPS-PCOO