Philippines won’t ease quarantine restrictions until vaccination begins

‘VACCINATED’. A health worker administers a ‘Covid-19 vaccine’ to a man during the simulation exercises for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine rollout at the AMC Gym, Barangay San Roque, Pateros on Friday (Feb. 19, 2021). The activity was witnessed by members of the Covid-19 vaccine Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) Team. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

THE Philippines will not be placed in the least restrictive quarantine tier until the government kicks off its national vaccine rollout, Malacañang said Monday, February 22.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave his directive to the Cabinet that the Philippines would not be placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) unless there is a rollout of vaccines,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement, adding that Duterte “gives higher premium to public health and safety.”

Roque also said that the president “wants vaccination to start the soonest possible time in order to ease the community quarantine.”

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go previously said that Duterte believes that easing the quarantine classification was not in the best interest of the country.

“No vaccine rollout, no MGCQ muna (as of now) — PRRD,” he said in a message to reporters.

Quoting the president, Go said Duterte’s “conscience” can’t allow the MGCQ to happen because “something might go wrong.”

Both the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) proposed to place the country under MGCQ starting March 1.

Currently, the Philippines is preparing for the arrival of its first COVID-19 vaccines this month to start its national rollout program. The first vaccine jabs set to arrive in the country are from Pfizer-BioNTech through the COVAX facility.

Backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the assistance program was set up to ensure that the scramble for vaccines among rich countries did not leave poorer nations out in the cold and expects to deliver two to three billion doses this year.

However, the delivery of Pfizer jabs to the Philippines scheduled in February is facing a delay.

WHO representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that Pfizer has yet to submit an indemnification agreement before the delivery can start.

“What the Philippines signed is the COVAX indemnification agreement. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for an indemnification agreement coming from the manufacturer, in this case it’s Pfizer-BioNTech,” he said at the televised public briefing on Thursday, February 18.

But Abeyasinghe assured that the COVAX facility is working closely with Pfizer to make sure that the pharmaceutical firm sends out the indemnification agreement.

To date, there are a total of 563,456 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, with 12,094 fatalities and 522,874 recoveries.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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