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4th COVID Wave Still Possible – Galvez

4th COVID Wave Still Possible – Galvez
National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. speaks before the media at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang Muntinlupa City on Feb. 9, 2021 during a simulation exercise for mass vaccination against the virus. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

A fourth wave of COVID-19 is still possible if people will not be vigilant and strictly follow minimum health protocols, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Wednesday, Nov. 24.

In an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the arrival of 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Australian government, Galvez said that even President Duterte has reminded the people of the importance of discipline in the fight against COVID-19.

“Actually the President (on Tuesday) during his talk to the people reminded the people again that we need to discipline ourselves and protect ourselves from being very careless,” Galvez noted.

He said the Filipino people must strictly follow the minimum health protocols such as wearing face masks and observing social distancing.

“We still need to be vigilant and be careful considering that there is still the possibility that we will have the fourth wave,” he added.

Galvez said this is the reason why the government is ramping up its vaccination program, particularly the more than 70 million Filipinos who haven’t had their first dose of vaccine yet.

“Because when the surge comes they (over 70 million unvaccinated Filipinos) will be the one that will be given the burden of deaths, and also the disease and hospitalization in our different hospital facilities. For example, if we will be giving the booster for 29 million, you are depriving 29 million of first shots. That is my point,” he said.

The vaccine czar asked the Filipino people to continue wearing face masks.

‘Gross neglect’

The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) symbolically padlocked the main gate of the main office of the Department of Health (DOH) in Manila on Wednesday to drum up their demand for immediate release of their COVID-19 allowances and other benefits.

The group had lambasted the DOH and the Duterte administration for “gross neglect” for continuing to turn a blind eye to the sorry plight of health workers, especially in a time of pandemic.

According to AHW president Robert Mendoza, the padlocking of the DOH gate symbolizes the agency’s “incompetence and gross negligence in upholding the health workers’ rights and welfare and failing to provide quality health care to the people.”

“Today, our fight is not just a matter of fulfilling the economic needs of the health workers, but rather this is a fight for justice. We will temporarily close the gate of the DOH until it becomes pro-people and pro-health workers,” he said.

Mendoza noted that almost three months have passed since they set an “ultimatum” for the DOH and the Duterte administration to release their “much-deserved” COVID-19 benefits but nothing significant has happened.

Until now, the government has not provided their Special Risk Allowance, Active Hazard Duty Pay and Meal, Accommodation and Transportation benefits, he said.

Ready for reopening

Meanwhile, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the bureau is on standby for the eventual reopening of the Philippines to foreign tourists with the deployment of 99 new immigration officers.

Morente said they have put in place the needed manpower and facilities in preparation for the country’s reopening to tourists while waiting for the official statement from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

To ensure that all personnel will be deployed, Morente said they have banned frontline personnel from filing vacation leaves during the holiday season.

“We have also resumed the use of our e-gates for arriving Filipinos as it would greatly lessen the processing time for our kababayans who will be returning here for Christmas,” he added.

Morente, however, clarified that the country’s travel restrictions are still in effect pending further guidelines and updates from the IATF.

According to information released by the Department of Tourism last Friday, the IATF “has approved in principle the entry of fully vaccinated tourists from Green List countries, territories and jurisdictions,” with final approval expected to be given before the end of November.

Among the 44 nations and regions currently on the Philippines’ “green list” are China, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia and the UAE. South Korea, traditionally the Philippines’ number one tourist source, is not on the list but the DOT recently revealed it is working on a travel bubble arrangement with South Korean officials.

Bureau of Customs at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport district collector Mimel Talusan said that Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat is reopening the borders to international tourists who had received a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO), which is seen as an important step in the nation’s economic recovery.

Officials from the BOC-NAIA held a meeting with members of the Airline Operators Council (AOC) to strengthen partnership and to enhance ease of doing business and promote transparency and information dissemination to aid all stakeholders, especially during the Yuletide season.

The AOC has 40 international and local airline-members including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Robertzon Ramirez, Rudy Santos