COVID eclipses Duterte’s plans for his final year in office | Coronavirus pandemic news


Just a few days after the first COVID-19 death Delta variant The announcement was made on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Khim Caermare, a volunteer teacher for the deaf, gathered 15 students to persuade them to get vaccinated. The province has recently experienced a surge in hospital infections and more than 170 deaths. The Delta variant was first discovered in India.

Caermare believes that his students need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

But it is not easy to convince them to shoot.

The misinformation on the Internet makes them hesitant. Some people have heard the false but widely circulated claim that vaccines turn people into zombies-fictional carnivorous monsters popular in horror movies. Others read unconfirmed posts, claiming that the vaccine could be fatal.

Language is another obstacle.

“You have to remember that deaf people have different ways of consuming information and data. Pictures are more effective than words,” he explained. Caermare said that he won their trust and friendship, which is very helpful to him, and he is learning to become a Catholic priest himself.

The latest data from Herd Immunity PH, which tracks the country’s vaccination status, shows that less than 10% of the country’s population has at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while less than 4% are fully vaccinated [File: Lisa Marie David/Reuters]

At a meal after morning prayer, Camaret preached his views to the class. He also obtained the consent of their parents, wrote to them and visited their home to explain the vaccination process.

When the day of vaccination arrived, Caermare and all his 15 adult students were vaccinated.

“I hope there will be a second batch soon,” he told Al Jazeera and praised his church’s support for making his “silent ministry” possible.

Medical and public health experts say that if President Rodrigo Duterte wants his COVID-19 response to be successful, a community approach based on trust is what he desperately needs, and urges his government to quickly step up the vaccine Vaccination has significantly improved contact tracing and testing.

Duterte, who is proud of his image as a tough guy, had previously threatened to shoot people who violated the quarantine rules Sent to prison Those who refused to receive the injection, but as he prepared to deliver his last annual State of the Union address (SONA) on Monday, the Delta variant once again tested Duterte’s leadership.

When Duterte first addressed Congress in July 2016, he barely mentioned any health issues. But now he has to deal with a pandemic that shrank the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 9.5% — the worst since World War II — and more than 27,000 deaths.

‘Serious concern’

Dr. Anthony Leachon, Duterte’s former COVID-19 policy adviser, told Al Jazeera that he was “seriously concerned” about the government’s response to this variant.

As of Sunday, another 55 cases of delta have been confirmed, bringing the total number of cases officially related to the strain to 119. Many cases are discovered several weeks after infection, so it is not clear how far it might spread.

“I don’t think we are ready yet,” said Leachon, who listed the reasons for the lack of preparation, including late enforcement of travel bans on Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.Cases related to the Delta variant have begun New outbreak.

“Delta variant cases are now spreading locally in the Philippines. Therefore, a sense of urgency is needed,” said Lishan, former dean of the College of Physicians of the Philippines.

More than a year after the pandemic, he said the country’s testing and contact tracing infrastructure is still “weak”, and the genomic monitoring required to detect mutations in the virus is “limited” – delaying timely identification of new variants.

He also pointed out that “slow” vaccination work is another major problem.

As of Saturday, the government’s COVID-19 response team stated that 5.5 million people have been vaccinated, about 5% of the country’s 110 million people.

During the pandemic lockdown, Filipino Muslims gathered in the Taguig area of ??Metro Manila on Tuesday for morning prayers on Eid al-Fitr [Lisa Marie David/Reuters]

It also stated that about 10.8 million people received the first dose of the vaccine, accounting for 9.8% of the population. According to data from the health department, 472,000 people received a record number of injections on July 22.

Last week, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told the media that the president will use his last SONA to highlight his achievements during his five-year tenure.

The measures listed by his government include the universal healthcare law passed in 2019 and free university education for 112 state universities and colleges.

According to a report by the Philippine News Agency, Duterte is also expected to call for the termination of the temporary labor contract-something he had promised as early as when he took office in 2016.

Under pressure from the business community, the 2019 term guarantee bill passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate was vetoed by the President.

‘Delta transmission may be happening now’

But although Duterte may want to focus on his achievements, he will not be able to avoid discussing the epidemic.

Although the vaccination rate is accelerating, Edson Guido, an economist and data analyst at the University of the Philippines, said that it may still take up to 1.3 years for the government to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos before October 2022. Achieve herd immunity.

“In order to reach our government’s goal by the end of the year, the current rate should be about 750,000 doses per day,” he said.

Guido had earlier warned that if a surge driven by Delta variants occurs, “the results will be bad” because the number of cases in the past few days has been hovering between 5,000 and 6,000, and genome monitoring is “lagging”.

“Look at the details of the additional Delta variant cases. These are infections that occurred a few weeks ago. So transmission may be happening now, and we will report them in a few weeks.”

Guido called on officials to monitor areas where the positive rate of COVID-19 has increased, strengthen testing and implement local lockdowns to control the variant. He also called on the government to bear the cost of testing. Currently, the government only provides free testing for returning overseas Filipino workers and medical staff.

As of Sunday, the health department had reported 5,479 new cases. Testing usually slows down on weekends. The latest figure is slightly lower than Friday’s 6,845 new cases, which is the highest level since June 26. At the same time, the number of people tested — a measure of how well the government detects carriers and prevents transmission — fell below 50,000, giving a positive signal rate of about 13%.

Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, the Philippines has reported more than 1.5 million cases, and as of Sunday, 27,224 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed.

However, as of the end of 2020, the Philippine Bureau of Statistics (PSA) has reported more than 30,000 COVID-19 deaths. In contrast, the health department recorded only 9,200 deaths. The total number of PSA includes nearly 21,000 “not immediately identified” deaths related to COVID-19.

‘Fight against the pandemic’

Dr. Jafred Christian Lopez, a public health expert and doctor of medicine at the University of the Philippines, said he was also “not optimistic”, believing that the country is ready for another surge, noting that even better-equipped countries are scrambling to cope with the new A wave of delta infections.

However, if people comply with public health rules and vaccination rates increase, he said the country “may find a way out of the pandemic and survive the delta variants.”

He said the government’s response should be data-driven, adding that officials should be “smart enough to keep up with new trends regarding the spread of mutations and the increase in cases.”

He attributed the passage of the National Health Care Act in 2019 to the Duterte administration, but he said that partial implementation of the law will make it more difficult to deal with the surge in Delta.

On Tuesday, students at a school for the deaf and dumb in the southern city of Dipolog lined up for COVID-19 in a community vaccination campaign [Khim Caermare/Al Jazeera]

At the COVID-19 patient center hospital in the northern province of Zamboanga City, senior health officials did not take a risk.

Last June, the same hospital and other affiliated public health centers faced Sudden surge In the case.

Provincial Health Minister Dr. Esmeralda Nadela told Al Jazeera: “We need to prepare for the possibility of the Delta variant coming in.

“The medical staff are still on alert. Although the situation has subsided, they have not let their guard down,” she said.

They ensure that there are enough portable X-ray machines, high-flow oxygen generators and mechanical ventilators, waiting for the oxygen tanks to be shipped from the big cities in Mindanao.

Nadella said that more drugs are also requested, including Remdesivir and tocilizumab, and hemoperfusion cartridges, a procedure that filters blood and removes toxins from COVID-19 patients.

Nadella said that in order to avoid congestion in the main hospital, the affiliated medical center was also ordered to increase the bed capacity for possible COVID-19 cases and improve their patient referral system.

Zamboanga del Norte, with a population of more than 1 million, has received an additional 40,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Vaccinations for the elderly and those with comorbidities began last Wednesday.

With the emergence of delta cases in other areas of Mindanao, Nadella also pushed for stricter border controls with neighboring provinces. In neighbouring Cagayan de Oro, the regional online website Minda News reported that a birthday party was responsible for the spread of the Delta variant there.

On Sunday, the health department stated that more than 70% of intensive care (ICU) beds in Northern Mindanao, including Cagayan de Oro, had been occupied. Data analysis organization OCTA Research stated that Cagayan de Oro is now in the “critical risk” category.

The ICU occupancy rate in the neighboring Davao area is 75.7%. OCTA Research pointed out that in Davao City, Duterte’s hometown, the ratio was 83% between July 18 and 24.

The government said last week that it expects to deliver at least 136.1 million doses of vaccine in the next six months.

Guido, a data expert at the University of the Philippines, said that about 28 million doses of vaccine are already available and supply is no longer an issue.

“We can manage 500,000 a day, and we will still have enough supply for the next 25 days.”

In recent days, Vice President Leni Robredo has urged speeding up the introduction of vaccines and warned that another surge may be worse than before.

“We must be prepared. We don’t want to surge again.”

Hundreds of people line up to get Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Polanco town in Zamboanga del Norte province [Ted Regencia/Al Jazeera]





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