All hands on deck to contain COVID-19

"We’re getting much-needed help."



Apart from the business sector, the Church, civil society groups and kindhearted individuals, the national government as well as other countries have all pitched in to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Congress held a special sessions on March 23 to enact the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which authorizes President Rodrigo Duterte to exercise powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to meet the current national emergency related to COVID-19. The law allows him to "reallocate, realign, and reprogram" a budget of almost ₱275 billion from the estimated ₱438 -billion national budget approved for this year to give the less fortunate a modest monthly subsidy to tide them over at this time when almost the entire economy has ground to a halt. Earlier, the national government allotted P27.1 billion to fund measures against the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its economic impact. Aside from funding health initiatives, the package will also provide relief to people and sectors affected by the slowdown in economic activity.

The package includes:

P3.1 billion for the Department of Health to help stop the spread of COVID-19, including the acquisition of test kits;

P2 billion for the Department of Labor for social protection programs for vulnerable workers, to be used for wage subsidy and financial support to affected establishments and workers;

P3 billion for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s Scholarship Programs to support temporarily displaced workers through skills training programs; and

P2.8 billion for the Department of Agriculture to provide loans of up to P25,000 each at zero interest for smallholder farmers and fisherfolk.

The Department of Trade and Industry will also get P1 billion to help affected micro entrepreneurs/micro, small and medium enterprises .

We're also getting much-needed help from abroad.

The Asian Development Bank has approved a $3-million grant to support the Philippine government’s response to the pandemic, including the purchase of emergency medical supplies and the delivery of effective health care services.

The assistance, incorporating ADB’s most flexible, expeditious procurement approaches, allows the government to purchase diagnostic reagents and equipment, materials for makeshift hospitals, and personal protection supplies for health workers managing severe COVID-19 cases, among others.

“ADB’s assistance will help the Philippines, our host country, address the immediate financial and logistical constraints on the provision of emergency medical services during this extraordinary public health emergency,” said ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa. “The assistance will allow the government to purchase key medical supplies and equipment, deliver health services, and minimize the social and economic disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. This is the first step in what will be a broader program of working with the government to respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 to health and economic activity.”

While the United States is also dealing with the contagion, it has nevertheless committed $2.7 million or P139 million in aid to support our response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The US assistance will be coursed through the US Agency for International Development, which will "collaborate with Philippine government counterparts to establish and implement internationally-recognized infectious disease threat prevention and response strategies, and enhance infection control.”

The assistance will also help protect health workers and patients by ensuring that hygiene products, masks, waste management supplies, and other necessary commodities are available, delivered, and managed appropriately.

And we're also getting help from China. Beijing has already donated medical supplies to assist efforts to control the epidemic. The assistance includes 100,000 test kits, 100,000 surgical masks, 10,000 N95 masks, and 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment. Last Sunday (April 5), a 12-member team of doctors and experts arrived from Beijing to share their experiences with our own doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a Russian pharmaceutical company will donate free medicine for the disease, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev recently announced. The St.Petersburg-based pharma, Polisan, is willing to offer the country Cicloferon, which has been found to be effective in treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in China.

According to the World Health Organization, there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the coronavirus disease. “However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care,” it said.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Bayanihan to Heal as One Act , coronavirus disease 2019 , COVID-19
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