MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday called for a stimulus package, mass COVID-19 testing, and an improved vaccine rollout as the country's virus cases continued to surge.
"I hope we are doing massive testing, contact tracing and isolation especially in areas that are on surgical lockdowns. Hindi na puwede yung 30,000-40,000 tests per day because that was our target when our cases were still down," Robredo said in a social media post.
"Our problem at hand is huge. We have to deal with this collectively. Huwag sana masamain ang suggestions (Please don't take these suggestions the wrong way)."
The country on Saturday recorded 7,999 new virus cases, its highest daily number since the pandemic reached the islands last year, raising the cumulative total to 656,056.
Active cases climbed to 80,642 or 12.3 percent of the total, prompting hospital authorities and analysts to warn of a possible full hospital capacity, especially in Metro Manila, in the coming weeks. A little over 50 percent of the active infections are in the capital region.
Robredo said government must vaccinate 256,993 people daily for the remaining 286 days of the year if it wants to achieve herd immunity by inoculating some 70 million of the population.
Around 269,583 healthworkers have so far been vaccinated, she said.
"That is just 23.95 percent. At this rate, we are only averaging 15,857 per day... We are so far off the target at the rate we are going now," Robredo said.
"This is what we have been asking since last year -prepare the deployment plan, treat it as a logistics problem, identify and train vaccinators, prepare large vaccination centers that will make possible a more efficient rollout."
Government earlier said its vaccination drive would move faster when the bulk of its vaccine supplies arrive beginning next month.
It will try to vaccinate 1 million citizens per week in April, 2 million citizens per week in May, and 3 to 5 million per week beginning June, said vaccination czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr.
The Vice President also called for the efficient delivery of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide.
Galvez last week said nearly 90 percent of some 1.1 million Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived earlier this month have been delivered all over the country.
"Totoo na problema pa ang supply ngayon. Pero yung konting supply na dumating sa atin, hindi pa natin ma-deploy with speed and dispatch. Let us assess where the bottlenecks are," Robredo said.
(It's true that supply remains a problem, but we can't even deploy with speed the few that arrived.)
"One million pa lang supply natin, pero in 17 days, hindi pa nga tayo naka-50 percent utilization, papaano na kung 70 million na yung available?"
(Only 1 million arrived. But in 17 days we haven't reached 50 percent utilization, what more if 70 million vaccine doses are available?)
The Vice President also urged national government to "not make it difficult for private companies to participate" and to "capacitate" local governments in the vaccination program.
"For smaller businesses who only want to make their employees safe para makapag bukas na ng negosyo, huwag na natin masyadong pahirapan pa (Let's not make life more difficult for smaller businesses)," she said.
"There are best practices already available. Indonesia and India are among the countries who are allowing private sector to participate. Okay naman to have rules and parameters, pero sana (but) don’t make it too difficult for them. After all, for every Filipino who gets the vaccine, the entire community benefits."
Robredo also called for a third stimulus package for those left jobless by the pandemic, citing as an example Malaysia which she said has released 6 stimulus measures.
"'Sumunod nalang kasi kayo.' Madali lang ito sabihin if you are speaking from a position of privilege. Pero kung wala ka nang ipapakain sa pamilya mo, lalabas ka pa din kahit nakakatakot," she said.
(It's easy to tell people to just follow rules if you are speaking from a position of privilege. But if you don't have anything to feed your family, you will still go outside even though it's risky.)
"Ayuda para sa mga nawalan ng trabaho at kita. Hindi sapat yung binigay natin dati."
(Assistance for those left jobless and without an income. The previous stimulus measures were not enough.)
Government had enacted stimulus measures Bayanihan 1 and 2 to aid health, economic and other sectors hit by the pandemic.
It has yet to spend about a quarter of the country's second, approximately P165-billion stimulus package for the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said last month.
Economic managers are "not sure" if a third stimulus package is necessary because "25 percent of Bayanihan 2 still has to be spent," Palace spokesman Harry Roque had said.
House lawmakers have called for a P420 billion stimulus measure but at least 2 senators have nixed the proposal.