Senator Christopher “Bong” Go stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte is firm that the vaccine rollout must first be accomplished before easing quarantine restrictions and allowing face-to-face classes, rejecting his own Covid-19 pandemic task force’s calls to ease quarantine curbs to revive a stalled economy.
“No vaccine roll-out, no MGCQ”, Go quoted Duterte referring to a modified general community quarantine that would have lifted many of the restrictions that have been in place since a sweeping three-month lockdown early last year.
“‘Nagkaroon na po kami ng pribadong diskusyon ng Pangulo at gusto niya rollout muna ng bakuna bago natin umpisahan ‘yung pilot na face-to-face classes, dahil delikado po sa mga kabataan natin.” he added.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has also announced that Duterte “gives higher premium to public health and safety” over the economy.
Vaccine delivery delays
Meanwhile, the country’s Food and Drug Administration announced that it had allowed for emergency use a vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinovac.
Sinovac has pledged to donate an initial 600,000 doses of its vaccine, but it is uncertain when those would arrive. A spokesman for the Health Ministry said “specific details as to shipment dates and volume are currently being finalised”.
Its manufacturer has committed to ship some 25 million doses in total this year to the Philippines, at two million a month. But again, there is no supply deal that guarantees delivery dates for these jabs.
The Philippines had also been expecting delivery of over 100,000 doses from Pfizer this month. But that shipment was delayed by a demand from Pfizer for an indemnification law to insulate it from class action suits or government inquiries that could arise from adverse effects with the use of its vaccine.
Rejected IATF advice
A task force overseeing the government’s efforts to combat Covid-19 had advised the President to further ease restrictions, even as experts report a slight uptick in Covid-19 cases in the capital and officials uncover more infectious coronavirus variants.
That would have meant allowing more people in churches, gyms, conference halls, and internet and gaming arcades. Cinemas can reopen, concerts may be staged again, and more workers can go back to their offices.
“I think we’re ready because after one year we have kept our infection rate manageable, which means it does not overwhelm the health-care system,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
He said the decision to further relax curbs meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus was intended to revive 95 per cent of the economy.
But public health experts said it might be too early to relax curbs as Metro Manila had been seeing more Covid-19 infections. University of the Philippines-based Octa Research Group also warned that Metro Manila could see infections rise to 2,400 a day if restrictions were lifted prematurely.