BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III
Localized lock downs instead of stricter quarantine status will be implemented in the country amidst the lingering threat now of the UK coronavirus variant.
This was stressed by National Inter-Agency Task Force chief, Karlo Nograles, who was in Bacolod City yesterday, who emphasized that although health authorities are on the lookout for this new strain, the present health protocols implemented is still applicable as its mode of transmission is still the same.
Nograles reiterated that under the rules of the NIATF, local government units may coordinate with the regional IATF to implement localized lockdowns if there are spike in the number of cases of UK variant in a particular area.
As of now, health authorities are focused in Benguet and Mountain Province, and Calamba City in Laguna, where confirmed cases of the UK variant had been recorded.
With only about five days left before the end of January, the quarantine status of Bacolod City and Negros Occidental is still uncertain as it will depend on the 7-day average growth rate, positivity rate, health capacity social and security factors, among others, of an area.
Nograles said the quarantine status of the various provinces and cities in the country will be released before Feb. 1 to the governors and mayors, who may file an appeal.
Nograles said the national IATF will meet again to discuss the appeals, if there are any, before giving a final recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte, who will decide with finality which areas will be under MGCQ or General Community Quarantine.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia said he echoed to Nograles the opposition to the move of allowing 10 to 65 years-old outside their homes but the latter said there is a need to pursue plans to reopen the economy.
Nograles said when they allowed 16 to 65 years old in business establishments, they did not notice any surge in Covid cases, so they are optimistic that it will be the same.
The Philippine Pediatric Society in Negros Occidental and the Emergency Operations Center opposed the idea of allowing minors aged 10 years old in establishments and other crowded areas as it could be detrimental.
“The Philippines is now on phase 3 of the national action plan against Covid, and based on surveys, many Filipinos agree that this is the time that we need to balance our economy and our health,” Nograles said.
He said Bacolod City passed with flying colors in its fight against Covid, and whatever strategies the city is doing should be emulated.
Leonardia attributed the success of the city’s campaign to the efforts of the barangay captains and the EOC.
The mayor said that despite the downward trend of cases in Bacolod, people should remain vigilant and continue observing minimum health protocols.
The initial rollout of the vaccines will be on the second week of February and since Bacolod had already entered an agreement with AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical firm, the city is assured of getting vaccines for its residents, Nograles said.
He said these vaccines are only for emergency use and not for commercial purposes, and any LGU or private company that want to avail of it should coordinate with the national government.
VACCINES FOR BACOLOD
Bacolod City is expected to get 650,000 doses of vaccine from the Swedish British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca on top of the doses that the national government will be giving. Nograles assured that the vaccines that will be availed of will be carefully scrutinized by their vaccine expert panel, the Food and Drug Administration, the health technical advisory group, and the committee on the adverse effect after immunization.*