With the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in effect in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan starting today, August 4, the Palace provided details on some of the strategies that will be adopted during the MECQ period, which are part of the government’s recalibrated plans against COVID-19.
In his regular press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. discussed some of these strategies which he said will be intensified during the two-week MECQ implementation. “Unang-una po tracing. Ina-adopt po natin yung formula ni Mayor Magalong na for every positive case, dapat ang tracer natin eh makapag contact tracing sa 30-37 close contacts,” said Secretary Roque, who emphasized further that all 30 to 37 contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual should be subjected to PCR testing.
The Palace official added that hand-in-hand with contact tracing capability is the government’s expanded testing capacity. Under the expanded testing strategy, more frontliners will now be subject to PCR testing including drivers of public utility vehicles, security guards, salesladies, receptionists, among others.
The Presidential Spokesperson also mentioned about the use of pooled testing that will allow the use of one test kit for small groups of people – called pools, which is currently being pilot-tested. “Ang huli kong narinig sa Project Ark sisimulan po nila ang pooled testing pilot involving five individuals per test,” informed Roque.
With intensified tracing and testing, the Palace spokesman said that isolation capacity is likewise being strengthened with more isolation centers constructed and more hotel rooms being made available for the isolation of individuals who are asymptomatic and with mild symptoms.
“Ngayon po may 2,000 rooms na tayo at hindi naman po tayo mag-aatubili na ubusin lahat ng hotel rooms sa Metro Manila kung kinakailangan dahil alam natin na ‘pag tayo ay nagpaigting ng tracing, dapat talaga ma-isolate yung mga positives kung sila ay mild at asymptomatic,” Sec. Roque stressed.
In terms of treatment, Roque reiterated that the construction or expansion of several hospitals in Metro Manila is currently underway and is being fast-tracked to accommodate more patients. “So sa lahat po, sa testing, tracing, treatment, and isolation, pina-iigting po natin ang ating mga hakbang na gagawin at [sasamantalahin] po natin habang sarado po ang Metro Manila at mga karatig na probinsya para paigtingin ito pong mga bagay-bagay na ito,’’ Roque stressed.
Also in the same press briefing, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar guaranteed that there is enough food supply to go around particularly rice, vegetables, fruits, poultry, and fish/seafood. Sec. Dar also assured that the DA will be monitoring the movement of food supply to ensure that those coming from the regions and provinces will not be delayed in checkpoints. The Agriculture chief also called on local government officials to cooperate and ensure the immediate passage of essential food supply.
Meanwhile, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña provided an update on the status of clinical trials on drug development. On clinical trials involving natural products, Sec. de la Peña said that the clinical trial on virgin coconut oil is on-going and has been tested on a small sample population, while the use of lagundi and tawa-tawa as supplemental treatment for patients with COVID-19 is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval.
The Science chief said that clinical trials on non-natural products like melatonin is also on-going, as well as those under the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity Trials, particularly the clinical trials on remdesivir and interferon. De la Peña added that clinical trial on the antiviral drug Avigan is likewise on-going and awaiting for results.
Sec de la Peña noted that the Philippines joined the WHO Solidarity Trials on vaccines and committed to join the COVAX Facility to assure availability of vaccines for the Philippines as soon as one becomes available. He also mentioned about on-going negotiations with five institutions, as well as with other bilateral partners, that are currently in advanced stages of clinical trials.
On another matter, Roque announced in the same press briefing that back-riding on motorcycle will now be allowed for APORs or authorized persons outside of residence for work-related travel. Unlike previously announced regulation, an APOR on back-ride need not be related to the driver, but the motorcycle should be privately-owned, should not be a motorcycle taxi, and must not be hired for the trip. The prescribed barrier between driver and passenger must also be installed. ### OPS-PCOO