By Azer Parrocha
MANILA: Social distancing must be accepted as the “new normal” until a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) becomes available, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday.
In a taped public address aired over state-run PTV-4, Duterte made this reminder stressing the importance of flattening the curve or slowing down the rate of Covid-19 infection in the country.
“The social distancing. Ito ‘yung (This is the) new life until such time na meron nang (that we have a) vaccine. Sundin lang ninyo ‘yan importante masyado (Just follow the protocol, it’s really important),” he said.
Duterte also reminded the public to wear face masks to avoid being accosted by the police.
The wearing of face masks is mandatory under the government’s quarantine protocols.
“Do not go out of your house without a mask. That is a must. Must comply. Tatapikin ka ng pulis. Hindi ka naman hulihin pero nakakahiya sabihin sa’yo, ‘Adre, tumabi ka muna (The police will tap your shoulder. You won’t be arrested but it will be embarrassing if they tell you, ‘Adre, step aside),” he said.
He also warned that the Philippines could not afford to have a “second” and “third” wave of Covid-19 infections.
“Remember na (that) the easing up of the restrictions, hindi iyan (big) sabihin na wala na ang Covid (doesn’t mean Covid no longer exists). Just because we allowed certain people — dahan-dahan lang, dahan-dahan lang sa ngayon para walang ano — hindi tayo madapa (we should do it slowly so we don’t trip). We cannot afford a second or third wave na mangyari,” he said.
Amid reports of quarantine violations, he said the protocols laid out by the government to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were for their safety and protection.
“The injunctions given by government ‘yung anong — ang mga salita na ‘huwag’, ‘ganito’, ‘ito gawain mo’, ‘ito huwag mong gawin’ (words like don’t do this, do this), it is intended for your protection.
Quarantine violators, he said, would not only put themselves in danger but others as well.
Presidential Peace Adviser and National Policy Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. emphasized the importance of balancing between health and economy in deciding on the fate of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).
“In the absence of a vaccine, all we can do is prevent and contain it, and mitigate its impact. The government, however, cannot endure the ECQ for an extended period of time as its resources are very limited. Hence, it has to balance between health and economy,” Galvez said.
On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there are around seven to eight “top” candidates for a vaccine to combat Covid-19, and work on them is being accelerated.
“We have good candidates now. The top ones are around seven (to) eight. But we have more than a hundred candidates,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
He, however, did not identify the top candidates.
He earlier said it may take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine but noted that an accelerated effort is underway “to make sure that this vaccine reaches everyone”.
Duterte was expected to announce the fate of the enhanced and general community quarantine but left it out of his speech.
Currently, Metro Manila; Central Luzon, except Aurora; Calabarzon; Benguet; Pangasinan; Iloilo province; Cebu province; Bacolod City; Davao City, Zamboanga City, and Albay province are still under ECQ which is expected to end on May 15.
The GCQ, with relaxed quarantine measures, is currently being implemented in all low-risk and moderate-risk areas nationwide since May 1.
As of Monday, there are 11,086 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country, with 726 deaths and 1,999 recoveries.
Duterte also greeted and thanked mothers for their sacrifices, especially those in the front lines against Covid-19.
“I greet all the mothers belatedly though Happy Mother’s Day. At ‘yung mga nanay na nawalan ng mga anak (and to the mothers who lost their children) fighting Covid doing the — the highest, the noble endeavor that one can do in this world is to save your fellowmen,” he said.
Duterte emphasized that they should be proud of dedicating their lives to helping those in need.
“To have been given the chance to serve your fellowmen before going to the universal sky is something which you should be proud of,” he added.
Meanwhile, he recalled how his late mother, Soledad, has been a “very good” mother to him.
“Look what happened, naging Presidente tuloy ako (I became President). Well, ewan ko (I don’t know) she must be smiling or she must be in state of wonderment now looking at the face of my father sabihin: ‘Anong nagawa natin sa anak natin itong g***** itong Rodrigo? Bakit — ? (saying: What did our child do? Why?)” he added. ’
Duterte was known to be close to his late mother, frequently mentioned her in his speeches, and would visit her tomb on All Saints’ Day and other occasions.
Soledad was a teacher in Davao City and also led a movement in Mindanao against former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s.