MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday volunteered suggestions for government to reach its goal of making the upcoming lockdown of Metro Manila the "last ever," as she pledged support for COVID-19 initiatives.
Home to 13 million people, the capital region will be under the toughest of 4 lockdown levels, the enhanced community quarantine from Aug. 6 to 20. Malacañang on Tuesday said it hoped this would "be our last ever lockdown," given increasing vaccinations.
"Para marating ‘yung goal na ‘yun, kailangang tingnan ang lockdown bilang stopgap measure lang," Robredo said in a statement. "Hindi ito gagana kung lahat ng ibang pandemic measures naka-status quo lang."
(To reach that goal, the lockdown should be viewed only as a stopgap measure. This will now work if all other pandemic measures just stay on status quo.)
For one, the coronavirus testing should hit 120,000 a day from the current 50 so authorities could identify areas where they need to focus on, said the Vice President.
She said the COVID-19 contact-tracing effort taps many different apps and should be unified to produce only one database.
Authorities should also be "hospital-ready" because some people might die without getting admitted to healthcare facilities in case of a surge in infections, like what happened last March and April, Robredo said.
"Tulungan na ang mga ospital na mag-hire na ng mga medical personnel. ‘Yung access sa gamot at oxygen, tiyakin, at bantayan ang nagsasamantala sa presyo," she said.
(Let us help hospitals hire medical personnel. Access to oxygen and medicine should be ensured, while monitoring those who might take advantage of prices.)
Most importantly, the government should eye giving out 750,000 COVID-19 shots a day to achieve herd immunity more quickly, the Vice President said.
Authorities, she said, should also make sure the efficient distribution of aid to vulnerable families and small businesses.
"Lahat ito puwede nang gawin, puwede nang trabahuhin, para maabot ‘yung pangarap na maging last lockdown na ito," Robredo said.
"As always, willing tayong tumulong sa anumang paraan para maabot ang mga layunin natin na makaraos na sa pandemya," added the government's second-in-command.
(All these can be done and worked on to achieve the dream that this will be the last lockdown. As always, we are willing to help in whatever way to reach the goal of surviving this pandemic.)
Experts have warned of an explosion in infections fueled by the Delta variant that could overwhelm hospitals in the coming weeks if restrictions are not drastically tightened in the crowded capital.
The Philippines has recorded more than 1.6 million coronavirus infections — the second highest in Delta-ravaged Southeast Asia —including nearly 28,000 deaths.
So far, it has confirmed more than 200 Delta infections, many of them local cases, and there are fears the more contagious strain could tear through the nation like it has in neighboring countries.
Metro Manila and surrounding provinces were last locked down in March as record infections pushed hospitals to their limit.
As new cases eased in July, the government lifted a ban on children aged 5 to 17 going outdoors for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
But 2 weeks later it reimposed the stay-at-home order as authorities confirmed local transmission of Delta.
The tougher restrictions come as the country struggles to vaccinate its population due to tight global supplies and logistical challenges. Only 9.8 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The government aims to immunize 58 to 70 million people this year to safely reopen the economy.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse