MANILA (UPDATE) - Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday called on the administration to provide assistance to provinces reeling from increasing COVID-19 cases.
The Department of Health last week flagged 36 areas with "high or moderate risk" number of coronavirus infections.
Robredo said government should ramp up COVID-19 testing and increase the supply of vaccines in these areas.
"Hindi lang dito sa Metro Manila pero 'yung areas of concern all over Philippines, sana masuportahan sila ng testing, vaccines kasi yun talaga yung problema," she said in her weekly radio show.
(Government should support the testing and vaccine supply of not only Metro Manila but areas of concern all over the country because that's really the problem.)
"Ang Metro Manila, area of concern pa rin siya... Pero pababa ang mga kaso. Ang positivity rate lang ang medyo mataas. Ang mataas na positivity rate, yun yung bina-bat natin na dagdagan ang testing. Parang sirang plaka tayo na 'dagdagan ang testing, dagdagan ang testing.'"
(Metro Manila is still an area of concern... But its number of cases is declining. However, its positivity rate remains high. High positivity rate means we should increase testing. We've said this so many times.)
In some areas, people are lining up in hospitals waiting to receive medical care, with some having to wait for their dead to be cremated, she added.
"Pag tinignan natin ang stats ng DOH, parang hindi pa puno. Parang nasa 70 percent, iba 60 percent. Pero ang claim ng mga doktor, parang hindi sya representative sa tunay na sitwasyon on the ground kasi pila na," Robredo said.
(If we look at DOH stats, it seems hospitals are only 70 or 60 percent full. But doctors claim it does not represent the real situation on the ground where the queues are long.)
"In fact, sa Legaspi, meron kaming partner na yung asawa ang namatay, grabe ang pila sa cremation. Parang naghintay pa sila ng more than a day bago ma-schedule ang cremation dahil ganun ka-grabe ang kalagayan."
(In fact, in Legaspi, we have a partner whose spouse died. They had to wait more than a day before the spouse's cremation could be scheduled.)
Medical groups have recommended that quarantine status be tightened in their local areas but officials are hesitant due to its impact to the economy, Robredo said.
"May lumabas na parang nagwo-worry sila maging India. Ayaw lang nila dumating sa ganun. Maaga pa lang, preventive na," she said.
(There's a report that came out that they worry they will become like India. They just don't want it to come to that, so they want to be preventive early on.)
"Kaya lang may disagreement kasi yung LGU (local government units) ata, hindi in favor. May province na hindi in favor sa ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). 'Yung inaalala nila, negosyo, trabaho, marami na namang di makakain kasi walang hanapbuhay."
(But there's a disagreement because LGUs are not in favor of ECQ because they worry for businesses, jobs. Many will be unable to eat again because they can't make a living.)
Ramp up coronavirus testing
The Vice President had earlier said the country must achieve 5 percent positivity rate, or the number of people who are found positive for COVID-19 among those tested, based on the World Health Organization standards.
The Department of Health reported Saturday that out of 50,104 people who underwent testing for COVID-19 last Thursday, 11.5 percent were found to be carriers of the virus.
This is considered the lowest since May 30, according to ABS-CBN Data Analytics head Edson Guido.
Robredo said her office is providing aid to provinces and operating within the protocols of local government and Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19.
"Kung saan may espasyo, dun kami papasok. Alam nila, kausap namin ang mga doktor, ready kami anytime," she said.
(Wherever there's space, that's where we'll come in. They know, we talk to the doctors, that we're ready anytime.)
Her office is willing to help with the antigen tests, but some local governments would require patients to undergo RT-PCR tests to get confirmatory results.
Robredo said test results should be released as soon as possible, particularly for fully-vaccinated Filipino migrant workers currently in quarantine facilities.
"Ang problema yung mga OFWs natin na nakakuha ng maiksing bakasyon na pwede sana silang makauwi para makabisita sa kanilang mga pamilya--kung yung halos buong linggo nasa quarantine sila, nabawasan na ang time na mabisita nila ang buong pamilya. So sana lumabas na agad (ang test results), at least for those fully vaccinated," she said.
(The problem is our OFWs who get short vacation leaves could have used the time to visit their families at home--the entire time they're in quarantine they could have already visited their families. So we hope the test results will be immediately released, at least for those fully vaccinated.)
The Vice President, meantime, commended the Quezon City government's "Bakuna Nights" initiative where employees can get inoculated after their work hours.
"Maraming magagandang practices, kailangan lang talagang magtulungan. Kahit may supply na, kulang talaga ang vaccinators," she said.
(There are many good practices, we just need to help each other. Even if there's supply of vaccines, we lack vaccinators.)
The Philippines aims to vaccinate at least 58 million individuals this year to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus. A total of 8,050,711 jabs have been administered nationwide as of Friday since the country began its COVID-19 vaccination program in March, government said.
The country as of Saturday tallied 1,353,220 coronavirus infections, of which 59,439 remain active and 23,538 were deaths.