Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd on Monday credited the government’s granular response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic for the drop in the number of Covid cases.
Duque lauded local government officials, including village heads, for enforcing the Coordinate Response to Defeat the Epidemic Program in their areas to quickly detect, trace and isolate confirmed Covid-19 cases.
He said the country scored significant gains in the fight against Covid-19 because the health system capacity had been ramped up in the past months.
As of November 4, the country had 159 laboratories processing Covid-19 samples through reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction testing, which has a faster turnaround time and smaller backlogs.
There are 11,225 quarantine facilities and 16 mega temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMFs), with a 168,440 total bed capacity and a utilization rate of 27 percent.
Duque said the TTMFs allowed hospitals to focus on severe and critical Covid-19 patients and those who could not conduct self-isolation in their homes.
He also noted the efficient response of the One Hospital Command system, led by treatment czar, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, with 78 transactions resolved every day.
Even as Duque touted the drop in Covid-19 cases, his deputy, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, cautioned there were still areas in Visayas and Mindanao where cases had spiked.
Vergeire mentioned Sarangani, Eastern Samar including Ormoc City, and Dinagat Islands, which had a 200-percent rise in Covid-19 cases following the reopening of their ports.
On Monday, the country logged 2,058 new Covid cases, bringing the total case count to 398,449.
There were 182 new recoveries, for a total recovery count of 361,784, and 108 deaths, raising the death toll to 7,647.
Duque also said the appoint-ment of National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. as “vaccine czar” is part of the roadmap towards finding a Covid vaccine.
“The availability of the vaccine will certainly be a game changer, where we go from avoidance to minimizing the threat of the infection.” Duque said.
In the roadmap, the Department of Science and Technology will be the lead agency in vaccine development, together with the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Foreign Affairs for diplomatic engagement,
The Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management, together with the Department of Finance, will handle the procurement and the budget of the vaccine “to ensure that the allotted budget for Covid-19 vaccines will be utilized for maximum coverage of intended beneficiaries,” added Duque.
The Health department will handle the vaccine’s deployment and rollout. It will also manage the cold-chain storage of the vaccine, health worker training, logistics management and monitoring adverse reactions from inoculated patients.
Duque said there would be strict monitoring procedures and protocols in the procurement of the vaccines, which was why the vaccine cluster would be guided by expert groups such as the Health Technology Assessment Council, National Immunization Technical Advisory Group and National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee.
Galvez said his group was continuing discussions with other countries for the possible government-to-government procurement of some vaccines.
The aim is to acquire 50 million vaccine doses to inoculate 25 million people.
Lopez said by May or June next year, a vaccine may be available but distribution may not start until 2022 because of the huge demand especially from developed nations.
Among the areas considered for the vaccine distribution zone are Metro Manila, Region 3 and 4A, Cebu, Davao City, and Cagayan De Oro City, where the case load is high and where the cold chain storage facility hubs will be built.