Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr assured on Monday, May 3, 2021, that the government is ahead in terms of planning and responding to the COVID-19 situation in the country to prevent a worst-case scenario.
In a press briefing today, Secretary Roque underscored the current initiatives of the national government to increase healthcare capacity, particularly the ICU bed capacity of hospitals to ensure that those who will need hospitalization and critical care will be able to avail of the said services.
“Yung pagdadagdag pa, pagpapalaki ng ating health care capacity is the long-term plan right now because we all know that it is cheaper to invest in health infrastructure rather than to close the economy ulit,” said Secretary Roque.
The Palace official also emphasized that with the additional ICU beds, healthcare utilization rates will go down, which may give the government confidence to lower community quarantine classifications.
Secretary Roque added that part of the government’s foresight on the current COVID-19 pandemic is the imposition of a travel ban for those who will be coming from, or those with travel history to India.
“Pero ang warning nga po ng WHO, kinakailangan kasama sa travel ban yung mga lugar kung saan mataas ang traffic involving passengers from India at kasama po dyan yung Middle East,” said Sec. Roque. He added that this suggestion is being studied carefully, especially since there are many overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East.
Department of Health Undersecretary and Treatment Czar Dr. Leopoldo Vega also underscored other strategies of the national government to ensure foresight and to avoid worst case scenarios. Dr. Vega said that first among these strategies is suppression of the spread of the virus. He said that the Inter-Agency Task Force has always been ahead in terms of making sure that the virus will not spread to the extent that the country’s healthcare capacity will not be able to handle.
Another strategy, said Dr. Vega, is increasing healthcare capacity as mentioned by Sec. Roque. According to Dr. Vega, this is in terms of increasing the number of beds and the number of isolation and quarantine facilities by improving infrastructure and ensuring that there is enough human resource and technology or equipment to support the said facilities. Lastly, Dr. Vega said that another foresight that the national government is doing is strategizing on vaccination to help resolve the pandemic.
On another matter, the Palace spokesperson affirmed the arrival of 15,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine in the country on May 1. Sec. Roque said that the Sputnik V vaccine is the second government-procured vaccine that arrived in the country.
“Magiging pilot run itong unang batch ng 15,000 doses para sa paghahanda natin sa pagdating ng 485,000 doses ngayong buwan ng Mayo,” Roque remarked. He added that the trial order for the vaccines from Gamaleya is needed to assess the country’s logistics capability, especially since the Sputnik V vaccine requires negative 18 degrees storage.
Dr. Nina Gloriani, Department of Science and Technology Vaccine Expert Panel head, assured that Sputnik V was evaluated by the vaccine panel thoroughly for safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy. Dr. Gloriani said that the documents that they received from Gamaleya was the most comprehensive set of documents that they received from vaccine companies.
Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to India Ramon Bagatsing said that as far as the India side is concerned, Bharat Biotech has given its firm commitment that once all papers are expedited by the Philippines, then the company can deliver the 8 million doses of Covaxin that was agreed upon by both countries. For Serum Institute, Ambassador Bagatsing said that the company plans to rollout its vaccines by September 2021.
On the repatriation of Filipinos in India, Ambassador Bagatsing said that as soon as the travel ban imposed by the Philippines is lifted, then they can arrange for the repatriation of those who wish to go back to the Philippines. The ambassador also assured that Filipinos in India are given the assistance that they need especially for those who will fall ill or those who lost their jobs during this pandemic. ### OPS-PCOO