President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed the rate of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infection in the Philippines, saying the “ratio is somewhat low” in relation to the country’s population.
“Today [Friday] the DoH (Department of Health) reported 17,964 new Covid-19 cases bringing the total number of active cases to 175,470. The positivity rate is at 28 percent. There are 168 reported deaths today. That is a lot. The total number of deaths is now – these are the deaths in the Philippines due to Covid-19 – 34,899. Or 1.06 percent of the total [number of] cases,” Duterte said in his prerecorded public address aired on Saturday.
“You know, when you compare this with the other nations, based on the number of population, our ratio is somewhat low,” he added.
On Saturday, the Philippines logged a record 26,303 new cases, pushing the overall total to 2.206 million.
The country posted a positivity rate of 27.6 percent, meaning, out of 75,688 cases, 20,889 have returned positive.
Active cases are at 185,706, while total recoveries are at 1.985 million, including 16,013 recoveries, while deaths are at 34,978, including 79 new fatalities
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said earlier this month that the Philippines was “still on track” in its projection of the number of Covid-19 cases.
“We are within projection for as long as we do not exceed 20,000 per day. That is the projection. So, I would say we are on track,” Roque said.
Meanwhile, Duterte asked the public for understanding and patience after the postponement of the implementation of the granular lockdowns system in Metro Manila.
“I pointed out the lack of guidelines – this is to further refine the guidelines. I ask for the general public’s continued understanding and patience on this matter,” Duterte said.
Granular lockdowns aim to do away with the current strategy of implementing citywide or provincewide community quarantines.
Metro Manila is under modified enhanced community quarantine until September 15.
Booster shots for health workers
Meanwhile, Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) and chairman of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine section of San Lazaro Hospital Dr. Rontgene Solante called on the government to expedite the administration of booster doses to health workers.
Solante issued the statement after World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the administration of booster doses should be backed by strong evidence and must be targeted to population groups in “greatest need.”
“How can we get that evidence, if all health care workers got sick or could die? That is one factor that the VEP is looking into; we do not need some evidence that health workers may get sick or die before we can give them the booster shots,” Solante said during the Laging Handa briefing.
The DoH on Friday said there was no consensus yet on the VEP’s recommendation on booster shots, as it needs to be deliberated first by members of the All-Experts Group before it can be forwarded to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
Qualified to receive booster doses include health care workers directly caring for Covid-19 patients, the elderly aged 75 and above, and immunocompromised individuals such as those with cancer.
Solante said they are also waiting for clinical trial data on the use of CoronaVac on children aged six years old and up after Chile allowed the use of the vaccine brand in the age group.
Abalos clarifies on resolution
Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. clarified that the resolution issued by the Metro Manila Council was not a new relaxed policy on Covid-19 but a call to the IATF-EID to create a study group on the loosening of restrictions for vaccinated individuals.
“If it is going to be positive, then we should implement it ASAP (as soon as possible) and we could put on a pilot [study]. … [A]gain, the term is ‘study,’ kasi we are prudent enough to go through the process,” Abalos told The Manila Times.
Abalos made the clarification amid concerns raised by the DoH and the WHO that the loosening of restrictions pushed by Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Jose Maria Concepcion 3rd could be risky to the public.
Abalos said the solutions that could emerge from the multidisciplinary study would help guide Metro Manila mayors in drafting plans for the reopening of the capital.
Metro Manila has vaccinated 5.492 million individuals, equivalent to 56 percent of its 13 million total population.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar tasked the National Capital Region Police Office to ensure that police officers are well-informed on the latest quarantine guidelines that would be enforced in Metro Manila.
“Now that the guidelines for the quarantine alert system were already issued, I have tasked our police commanders in Metro Manila to make sure that all police personnel on the ground are fully informed of what is allowed and not permitted for each quarantine alert level,” Eleazar said in a statement.
WITH REPORTS FROM RED MENDOZA AND CHRISTIAN MAGHANOY