Alarmed by the rising cases of the coronavirus diseases 2019 (Covid-19) in the country, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go renewed his plea to the public to strictly follow the health and safety protocols particularly wearing of face masks, physical distancing and washing of hands.
Go made his appeal as he commended the government for including the giving of 20 million free face masks for the poor in its new strict guidelines for the return of the second most strict modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.
He noted that this initiative can create jobs for local makers of washable face masks and, at the same time, can save lives by distributing these free face masks to those who cannot afford to buy their own, particularly the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and other poor Filipinos.
“Sabi ko sa kanila [the government], unahin nila ang mga mahihirap. ‘Yung 4Ps members kasi sinasabi natin wear mask, eh sabihin ng mga kababayan natin, wala naman kayong binibigay na mask kaya dapat lang na magkaroon po ng libreng face mask (I told them, give the poor first, 4Ps members because we said wear face mask but they said you don’t provide masks. So there should be free face masks),” Go said in an interview on Saturday.
According to health experts, proper wearing of the right kind of mask decreases the risk of catching the virus by 85 percent. With physical distancing and the use of face shields, this risk may be reduced by more than 90 percent.
Go, chairman of the Senate committee on health and demography, expressed concern at the rising number of Covid-19 infections which he attributed to increased testing.
On Aug. 8, the Philippine health authorities logged 4,226 new Covid-19 cases, raising the total to 126,885, with 67,117 recoveries and 2,209 deaths.
While the country has now the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, Go noted that the Philippines has the biggest number of Covid-19 tests with 1,643,539 compared to Indonesia’s 908,000 tests.
“Hindi naman ito parang contest na padamihan ng medalya tulad ng SEA Games na nag-uunahan tayong makakuha ng gold medal. Siyempre, nalulungkot po ako na tumataas ang cases sa ngayon (It’s not like a contest with the most won medals like in Southeast Asian Games. But of course, I am sad that Covid-19 cases is increasing now),” he said.
He said strict adherence to the health and safety guidelines will prevent more infections and possible extension of MECQ beyond Aug. 18.
Go said the government is taking one step backward and two steps forward in its decision to revert Metro Manila and nearby four provinces to MECQ to prevent further spread of Covid-19 and strengthen the testing, tracing and treating capabilities of the health sector.
“Ang thrust po dito (here) one step backward, two steps forward. Bahagi ito ng recalibration ng strategies. Maliban sa pagbibigay ng time out [para sa mga front-liners], ito ay para ma-intensify pa ang testing capacity natin and tracing capability and isolation capacity (This is part of recalibration of strategies. Aside from giving timeout for our front-liners, it will further intensify our testing, tracing and isolation capacity),” he said.
When asked about quarantine measures and procedures for Covid-19 cases, he said people with mild cases or are asymptomatic can be quarantined in their homes, provided they comply with the National Task Force (NTF) on Covid-19’s three new isolation requirements: (1) they must have a separate bedroom for the patient’s exclusive use throughout the isolation period, (2) a separate bathroom, and (3) they must not be living with people at risk of severe illness from the virus.
The NTF said Covid-19 patients who cannot fulfill any of the requirement should be transferred to a government quarantine facility with the assistance of local health workers.