Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (PPD photo)

MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III emphasized the need for long-term solutions in preparation for a possible surge of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases, saying lockdowns are not enough and impair the economy.

During a televised briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night, Duque reported that the increase in Covid-19 cases in the National Capital Region and its neighboring provinces continues to slow down.

However, daily infections continue to rise in the Visayas and Mindanao.

"Nakita naman natin na sa kabila po ng pagbaba ng kaso sa tuwing magpapatupad tayo ng enhanced community quarantine, malaki po ang negatibong epekto nito sa ating ekonomiya at kabuhayan ng mga kababayan natin (We have seen that despite the decrease in cases whenever we implement enhanced community quarantine, it has a huge and negative impact on our economy and on the livelihood of our fellowmen)," Duque said.

He suggested that long-term programs like enhancement of local surveillance capacity which include sufficient human resources and innovative information systems are needed to fight Covid-19 and future pandemics.

"Ang pagpapaigting ng atin pong referral systems sa konteksto ng ating pagbubuo ng healthcare provider networks, at pagpapalakas ng ating financing mechanisms sa pamamagitan ng PhilHealth at iba pang pondo mula sa GAA (General Appropriations Act) ng ating gobyerno upang makapagbigay po tayo ng abot-kayang (The strengthening of our referral systems in the context of the creation of healthcare provider networks, and the strengthening of our financing mechanisms through PhilHealth and other funds from our government's GAA so we can provide affordable) health services," he added.

Since mass protection and a significant decrease in cases could be achieved through vaccination against Covid-19, Duque also recommended the development of vaccine self-reliance in the country.

On Tuesday, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said at least eight firms are eyeing local vaccine manufacturing in the country, five of which will be for Covid-19.

DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said the National Task Group on Vaccine Evaluation and Selection has been coordinating with prospective vaccine manufacturers in the Philippines by connecting local pharmaceutical companies to foreign vaccine developers that expressed interest in local vaccine manufacturing.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier revised its target to inoculate 50 to 60 percent of the population with a concentration in Metro Manila, two other cities, and six provinces instead of its initial 70 percent of Filipinos.

DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje earlier said the government will now aim for “population protection” against Covid-19 while waiting for more vaccine supplies.

The country now has four brands of Covid-19 vaccines in its inventory -- Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, and Pfizer. (PNA)