It has been exactly a year since the government implemented the first lockdown and placed the entire Metro Manila under a “community quarantine” extending it further to “enhanced community quarantine” (ECQ), the strictest of these measures and is effectively a total lockdown in Luzon beginning on March 17, 2020.
The pandemic resulted into a collapse of the economy and businesses folding up as more cases have been documented and reported. For its effort, the government and its agencies are trying their best to minimize, if not eradicate, the transmission of the infectious disease through health and safety protocols.
Swab testing became relevant and the production of vaccines slowly gave hope to recovery around the globe.
This year, the arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines in the country last February 28, signals the beginning of eradicating the infectious disease brought by COVID-19 and a first step to succeeding vaccination nationwide.
Day 1 of vaccination was ordered on March 1.
Though it was met with controversy and distrust, Sinovac is openly endorsed by the President Rodrigo Duterte himself and the Department of Health (DOH) through Secretary Francisco Duque III. DOH also released a Sinovac primer to the public prior to inoculation day. The primer explained the truth and misconceptions about the controversial vaccine brand from China.
Sinovac-made vaccines arrived in Manila on Sunday as part of China’s commitment to supporting the Philippines’ vaccination rollout.
In a press conference held for the announcement of the rollout of the vaccine, the President told the media that he is considering to place Metro Manila in MGCQ.
“The economy is down and the earlier (rollout) the vaccine and we reached 2 million stocks, I will open the economy,” Duterte said.
“People have to eat. People have to work. People have to pay. And the only way to do it is for the economy and businesses to regroup. Without that, patay talaga. So, mahirapan tayo,” he added.
However, Duterte won’t still allow the opening of face-to-face classes even there’s ab available vaccine around. “Huwag muna ngayon. Not now. I cannot make the decision. I cannot place the lives of our children in jeopardy. I’m not yet ready to lose the lives of our young people, of our children,” said Duterte.
In his speech, Duterte thanked the Chinese government for the vaccine donation, confident that more batches of vaccines will be available at the earliest possible opportunity.
“The vaccine that China donated could greatly help in the recovery pf the economy. And it starts (as soon as possible) once we begin the rollout. Slowly, those persons who got the vaccine can go back to work again and businesses will open. It will greatly help and thereby promote a healthy trade and commerce with China,” Duterte further explained.
Who is behind Sinovac vaccine and how does it work?
The Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac is behind the CoronaVac, an inactivated vaccine.
It works by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response.
By comparison the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines being developed in the West are mRNA vaccines. This means part of the coronavirus’ genetic code is injected into the body, triggering the body to begin making viral proteins, but not the whole virus, which is enough to train the immune system to attack.
“CoronaVac is a more traditional method [of vaccine] that is successfully used in many well-known vaccines like rabies,” Associate Prof Luo Dahai of the Nanyang Technological University told in an interview.
“mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine and there is [currently] no successful example [of them] being used in the population,” Prof Luo adds.
Several countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and Singapore, have placed orders for the vaccine.
Researchers at the Butantan Institute, which has been conducting the trials in Brazil revealed that Sinovac has been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials, while Turkish researchers said the Sinovac vaccine was 91.25% effective. In Indonesia, which recently rolled out its mass vaccination programme, said it was 65.3% effective. Both were interim results from late-stage trials.
AstraZeneca vaccines has arrived
Meanwhile, the country welcomed the arrival of 480,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines.
The Philippines is among the first countries in Southeast Asia to receive vaccines from the COVAX Facility. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.
“The long days and nights of waiting are finally over. These vaccines will be of great help to our valiant healthcare workers who have been at the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. With every dose that we will administer, we are inching towards a safer recovery from this pandemic. So, let us put our trust in science, in vaccines. Together, we will rise as a nation and heal as one,” says Department of Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.
One-policy uniform curfew hours
And just as the country was given a shot of hope, the COVID-19 cases has been increasing in a week’s time and this has prompted the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to enforce a one-policy uniform curfew hours beginning today, March 15.
MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos announced the strict implementation of the granular two-week one-policy uniform curfew hours in Metro Manila from 10 PM – 5 AM. The announcement was made via Facebook Live press conference last March 11 with the strict enforcement from all barangay levels as mentioned by Abalos.
The schedule of the curfew hours was unanimously voted by Metro Manila mayors. Essential mobility will not be disrupted. Food-to-go’s and essential workers who work 24/7 will be allowed to continue and operate as long as they come from essential industries.
“It’s just coincidental. Hindi rin namin napansin (COVID-19 pandemic month-year anniversary). Pero at least it shows that by Monday, March 15, when this resolution is out in the public, talagang hindi titigil ang mga alkalde. Andyan po sila to really fight this pandemic. Disiplina po talaga ang kinakailangan,” Abalos told the media during the Thursday’s press briefing.
See related article below.