Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday blamed the delays in the country’s COVID-19 response on the fragmentation of the health system as a result of the Local Government Code, which has devolved health services to local government units.
“I would say that it has been a weakness,” Duque said in an interview on the ANC news channel. “The fragmentation of the health system has contributed to some of the delays in the response.”
“Before the Local Government Code, the health system was like the military. Whatever the secretary of Health ordered, they would follow all the way down the line,” he said in Filipino.
Duque said it was pointless to compare the Philippine government’s COVID-19 response to other countries because its health system was so fragmented.
Duque said comparing COVID-19 responses will just bring frustration as there will always be countries that are doing better or worse than the Philippines.
The Palace has repeatedly defended its COVID-19 response as well as Duque, who has been criticized for responding slowly to the pandemic.
At the same time, Duque warned that there was a big possibility that the Philippines would suffer the same fate as India if minimum health protocols are not followed and if the pandemic response is not intensified.
Situations in other countries are lessons that the Philippines must learn from as the COVID-19 problem is very dynamic, he said.
Duque said the success of the COVID-19 response depends on each Filipino and appealed for solidarity and cooperation in complying with standard health protocols.
“At the end of the day, the war against COVID is really on the shoulders of every person. So it cannot just be the work of the national government, local government, [or] private sector groups,” he said.
“But we’re not helpless. We are not without the power to fight this. Simple interventions. Face masks, face shields, physical distancing, proper ventilation, avoidance of people in super-spreader events,” Duque said.
India on Thursday recorded 3,645 COVID-19 deaths, a new record for the country, according to health ministry data.
India is experiencing a relentless wave of infections, with almost 380,000 registered in the last 24 hours, breaking another world record.
This month alone the country has added over 6 million new cases.
As a precaution, the Philippines has imposed a travel ban on travelers from India.
The ban, which covers Filipinos in India, started at 12:01 a.m. on April 29, 2021 and will last until May 14.
According to the DOH, the variant from India was first detected in October 2020.
However, experts have said the surge in India was largely driven by a new coronavirus variant described as a “double mutant” due to its mutations.
The DOH on Friday logged 8,748 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total infections to 1,037,460 since the pandemic began.
This is the 12th straight day that fresh infections were under 10,000, data showed. New cases in early April went to as high as 15,000— a record high since the pandemic hit the Philippines in 2020.
According to the DOH, this pushed the active cases in the country to 73,908.
Of these, 95.1 percent were mild, 1.7 percent were asymptomatic, 1 percent were in critical condition, 1.3 percent were severe, and 0.87 percent were moderate.
The DOH also reported 89 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 17,234.
Meanwhile, 4,143 more patients have recovered from the illness, bringing the total number of recoveries to 946,318.
The DOH said 64 percent of the country’s intensive care unit beds were in use while 43 percent of the mechanical ventilators were occupied.
In the National Capital Region (NCR), 71 percent of the ICU beds were being utilized by patients while 55 percent of the mechanical ventilators were in use.
Duque said he was hoping that Metro Manila can return to a more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) after two weeks if transmission of the coronavirus goes down.
“That’s why we have to really monitor very closely how the cases are trending,” Duque said.
The modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in the “NCR Plus” covering Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal was extended until May 14.
Earlier, NCR Plus was placed under a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 until April 11.
This was later downgraded to an MECQ from April 12 to April 30.
“For NCR, there is incontrovertible evidence to show [infections are] going down,” Duque said.
“But whether this is going to be sustained is another thing, that’s why the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) has really egged the LGUs to really intensify the prevention, early detection, isolation, treatment measures or interventions,” Duque said.