Addressing a pandemic-weary nation, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday asked the Filipino people not to lose hope, assuring them that the country will eventually overcome the current health crisis.
“I will just say to my countrymen that do not despair. Kaya natin ito COVID na ito. Maliit na bagay ito sa buhay natin. Marami tayong dinaanan mas ano, mas grabe, mas mahirap, mas magluluha kayo,” President Duterte said in his weekly public address.
“I know, lahat kayo, lalo na ‘yong mga kababayan ko nandiyan sa squatters’ area, lahat kayo, huwag kayong matakot at hindi ko kayo iiwanan. That’s why I said, we are thinking of going mobile, kayo na ang pumunta, or if you are near the barangay, you just wait because ang order ko ngayon is for the team to give you the vaccine while traveling, at least mayroon,” he added.
The government will use all its assets to defeat the pandemic, the President said, as he asked all the departments to contribute.
“You have to contribute, I said, this is a fight not only against the COVID but against you know despair and hopelessness.”
The country’s poorest will be next in line in the government’s mass immunization campaign after the country’s health workers, President Duterte said.
“Matapos na ‘yong health workers, ‘yong matatanda, kayo na ang sunod. So ang priority would really be the squatters and we go to the squatters’ area. They do not have to go there because for a lot of reason would come in,” he stressed. “’Pag nangailangan ng tulong, nandiyan kami. Hindi lang nga madali pero we will mobilize.”
Living inside crammed households, he said, makes the poor the most vulnerable sector in the midst of the pandemic considering the very high risk of transmission especially for families who share only one bedroom.
Citing assurances from the health department, the President said the government could begin vaccinating the poor communities as soon as sufficient vaccine supplies arrive in the country.
Despite the ongoing vaccination drive, President Duterte reminded the public to continue observing the minimum health standards such as mask wearing, practicing social distancing, as well as maintaining good hygiene.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. told President Duterte during Monday’s meeting that the Philippines expects to receive more than two million vaccine doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech and the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility this month.
The COVAX facility will deliver 979,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, which will arrive late this month or early April, Galvez said.
For his part, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III assured the President in his report that the vaccine supplies have been “programmed” well to inoculate as many health workers as possible by securing two doses for each person.
Vaccine brands differ in shelf life and dosage interval, the health chief explained. Specifically, for Sinovac, a second dose is required 28 days post inoculation; while AstraZeneca maintains a 12-week interval for the second shot.
Duque said by proper programming and planning, they aim to “cover more healthcare workers and frontliners” in the government’s first leg of mass immunization.
The Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 5,404 new coronavirus disease cases on Monday, March 15, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 626,893 with 560,577 recoveries and 12, 837 deaths. PND