MANILA – The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Saturday said circuit-breaker measures will no longer work as much as effective vaccination, warning that lockdowns may even hurt the country more than help.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda expressed alarm over the country’s rising positivity rate, or how many among those who take coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) tests turn out to be positive, at 15 percent.
“Covid-19 cases show no signs of slowing down in the short-run. All signs point to a bigger wave than the last one. We are closely monitoring the trends,” Salceda said. “By all accounts, this coming wave will be bigger than the first one. Our highest was at 23 percent, in March last year.”
He said that although the fatality rate shows little signs of ticking up, the country is also seeing a slowdown in recoveries due to the surge in cases.
He stressed that the country could no longer be able to afford lockdowns, and the government must ensure that the country’s healthcare capacity can handle new cases.
Aside from strengthening health systems, he said the government should also work on issuing the implementing rules on the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act as soon as possible so that the bureaucracy would not be bogged down in the middle of a second wave.
“There are two big pictures involved here: systems and culture. On systems, clearly, we do not have an ambitious-enough vaccination program. We are vaccinating around 10,000 doses per day. At this rate, we will be able to meet herd immunity only by 2055. The pace is unacceptable, and we have to do better,” he said. “The culture has also retreated. Minimum health standards are no longer observed as faithfully.”
As for the cultural aspect, Salceda said there is a “false sense of security” in the fact that some vaccines have already arrived, as well as a prevailing “lockdown fatigue”.
“That’s why we need a more ambitious pace of vaccination, combined with stricter minimum health standards and stronger healthcare system support,” he said.
He pointed out that he has not seen any logistical preparations for mass rollout, as well as a unified contact tracing system.
He said only testing and treatment have seen significant progress.
“We in Congress are frustrated. We authorize every piece of legislation the agencies say they need to deal with the crisis. The President has also given the agencies unprecedented authority. We are still ready to authorize whatever they need,” he said, adding that government agencies should do better.
“If necessary, we in Congress will use our oversight powers to make sure they do,” he said. (PNA)