MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has blamed the recent spikes in COVID-19 infections on non-compliance with safety measures and has reminded the public to strictly observe minimum health protocols to avoid catching the virus.
Duterte urged Filipinos to contribute to the efforts to contain the pandemic by following the government's advice on physical distancing, proper hygiene, and wearing of face masks especially in public places.
"Many have died and many have gotten sick… What's the cause of this? Well, those who do not believe in social distancing, those who do not believe in personal hygiene," the president said during a pre-recorded public address last Monday.
"We’re trying to find out a way of effectively combating this new development of COVID-19 variants. I hope you can help. Follow the protocols and we can bring down the number of COVID cases," he added.
Duterte reminded the public to wash their hands frequently, use face masks and avoid touching objects in public places. He also advised the public to distance themselves from people who are coughing and to avoid touching their faces, noting that the virus that causes COVID-19 can enter the body through the eyes, nose and lips.
"You have only one life to live so please guard yourself," the president said.
Malacañang reiterated that the imposition of city-wide lockdowns is not advisable despite the spikes in COVID-19 infections.
"Our strategy is localized lockdown. It is really the obligation of local governments to intensify their isolation (and) detection (efforts), ensure that those who tested positive would be transferred to quarantine facilities, and avoid home quarantine," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Roque previously said the Philippines could no longer afford to implement a wide-reaching lockdown because of the need to address hunger and loss of livelihood.
During a meeting of the government's pandemic task force also last Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Pasay and Malabon are now considered critical risk areas while Makati, Navotas and San Juan are now classified as high-risk areas. He said Central Visayas and Cordillera posted the highest health care utilization rates but the two regions are still classified as low risk. Davao Occidental is also considered a high-risk area while Lapu-Lapu City, Ormoc City, Nueva Vizcaya, Santiago City, Ifugao, Mandaue City, Mandaluyong City and Cebu province are classified as moderate risk areas.
Duque said a higher number of COVID-19 infections has been recorded in the last two weeks.
"While the number of cases in these areas is increasing, we are making sure that our health care capacity is enough. If there are areas with inadequate capacity, we are ready to expand their capacity," the health chief said.
Duque recommended the deployment of additional contact tracers in Pasay, Malabon, Navotas and Makati to stem the transmission and to isolate people who have been infected with the virus.
Duterte said the local governments, including barangay chiefs, would play an important role in enforcing the health protocols and in facilitating the vaccination program.
"The barangay is the most important…If all barangay captains are ready to work, really work at it…we might decrease the number of transmission," the president said.
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