Philippine govt charts new Covid action plan

Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, inspects a clothing store which reopened at SM Masinag in Antipolo, Rizal yesterday. Boy Santos. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Jul 3, 2020, The Manila Times. The government is preparing a new coronavirus response strategy that will allow freer movement of people and the gradual reopening of the economy, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed on Thursday (Jul 2), The Manila Times reported.

The first phase of the government’s National Action Plan against Covid-19 (NAP) had garnered “good results,” Lorenzana said. The plan was implemented in March when coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases began to increase, especially in Metro Manila.

The NAP was crafted by the National Task Force Covid-19 headed by Lorenzana with Peace Process Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. as the chief implementer.

“The first part [of NAP], which is for March, April, May, June, the objective was different from this now, because we are now able to contain the virus and there’s a need to craft another campaign or action plan,” Lorenzana said in a virtual forum hosted by the National Defense College of the Philippines Alumni Association.

The new action plan will focus on easing movement restrictions, gradual reopening of the
economy and to have “the lives of people to be a little bit normal,” he said.

The new plan was presented on Thursday to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID).

The next action plan will be laid out from July to September.

If the virus is still not contained after September, a third plan will be implemented from October to December.

The Philippines is considered as one of the countries with the longest and strictest coronavirus lockdowns.

As the government moves to relax lockdown restrictions, the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Tourism (DoT) are considering the proposal to increase the operational capacity of hotels, restaurants, and other establishments in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).

“In such a case that GCQ might be extended for much longer, DTI and DoT are also considering increasing the operating capacity of these establishments we are inspecting.

This can be done even in GCQ, provided that compliance to the health and safety guidelines remains high and the health statistics in the country remain stable and manageable,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement on Thursday.

“Given those conditions, we can confidently propose an increase in the working capacity moving forward. The higher operating capacity, the more jobs and sources of income we can provide for our workers,” Lopez said.

The DTI and DoT inspected selected hotels and restaurants in Ortigas Center in Pasig City on July 1. They were joined by Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo, Mayor Victor María Regis “Vico” Sotto, and Mandaluyong Mayor Carmelita Abalos.

Lopez expressed satisfaction with the practices of the inspected hotels and restaurants.

He also cited the high compliance rate of food establishments, ranging from 95 percent to 100 percent, which was based on official reports from daily nationwide monitoring efforts conducted by different teams from DTI, DoT, the departments of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Health (DoH), Interior and Local Government, together with the respective local government units.

The IATF-EID earlier approved the 30-percent operational capacity of dine-in establishments in GCQ areas ahead of its original reopening schedule under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) — so that workers can return to their jobs and businesses can gradually reopen, get accustomed to the safety protocols, and gauge measures needed to ensure the safe reopening of the economy.

Dine-in establishments will be allowed to operate in MGCQ areas at the maximum seating of 50 percent.

“While we recognize that earnings remain below breakeven with the current arrangements, we are also very grateful for businesses and their sacrifices, which have helped not only restart the generation of jobs, income, and revenue, but also restore consumer confidence,” Lopez said.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno believes at least 70 percent of the economy can now move forward despite the continued spread of the Covid-19.

“There are some activities that may not be able to take off at this time but there are some ready. Maybe about 70 percent of the economy can move forward,” Diokno said in a press briefing on Thursday.

For the first time in weeks, the Philippines recorded a low number of Covid cases due to adjustments in reporting by accredited Covid laboratories, according to the DoH.

The DoH reported 294 new cases, with only 52 fresh cases, and 242 late cases, bringing the total to 38,805 cases.

The last time the count fell below the 200 mark was on June 7, with 227 new cases recorded.

The small number of cases was due to the change in data extraction time, which the DoH said is a “temporary” measure.

“From 24 hours, we only had 19 hours’ worth of data due to the change in process so that our Epidemiology Bureau will be given the time to do in-depth analysis on the data that we present,” Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire told a televised press briefing.

Vergeire added that out of the 72 Covid-19 testing laboratories, only 58 submitted their line lists through the CovidKaya application.

She said there were no new fresh cases in Region 7 or Central Visayas.


In a related development, Galvez said the situation in Cebu City is now “improving” but a lot still needs to be done.

Cebu City has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases and has surpassed Metro Manila as the disease’s new hotspot. It is the only area under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest form of lockdown.

Galvez attributed the improvement to cooperation of the public and the local government.
He pointed to allowing Covid-19 patients to undergo home quarantine and the city’s “weak” contact tracing as the reasons why it became a virus hotspot.

Galvez also noted the “psychological stigma” being faced by contacts of Covid-19 cases.
Some areas in Cebu City were “densely populated” making physical distancing hard to enforce, he said.

The Cebu City Health Department has recorded 5,141 Covid-19 cases. The number of patients who have recovered is 2,713, while the death toll is 169.

With most businesses going online under the new normal. Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara called on the government to work together in preparing the workforce for the adjustment.

Angara said the global economy is rapidly changing and as a result, a lot of the traditional jobs are disappearing and new jobs are emerging that require, at the very least, some basic technological know-how.

“We need a careers framework that involves education, skills training and support from our government agencies. So, the role of agencies such as Tesda, CHEd, DepEd and DICT has become even more important now to prepare our people and to set up the infrastructure needed.DoLE also has a role to play in matching the skills with the jobs available or in demand,” he added.

Tesda is the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; CHEd, the Commission on Higher Education; DepEd, the Department of Education; and DICT, the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

During a hearing of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, among the bills taken up was Senate Bill 1469 or the proposed National Digital Careers Act filed by Angara, which aims to promote the development of digital careers in the country and equip Filipinos with the skills needed to avail of these jobs.

Under Senate Bill 1469, the DICT, in collaboration with DoLE, DTI, DepEd, CHEd and Tesda will be required to prioritize the creation of digital training on various competencies.


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