P23B ayuda up for release Tuesday, says DILG

Residents in Metro Manila and nearby provinces who are qualified for a government subsidy could receive cash aid of P1,000 per person as early as Tuesday, April 6, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Sunday.

Consumers and vendors jostle for space at the Litex Market in Quezon City on Easter Sunday, unmindful of the need to observe social distancing with some ignoring health protocols such as wearing of face masks and face shields, a sharp contrast to that in Blumentritt market where security people enforce the safety measures amid the steady rise in cases of COVID-19 infections.

In an interview on radio dzBB, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the Department of Finance said the Bureau of Treasury would release some P22.9 billion in aid funds to local government units (LGUs) in the so-called NCR Plus today (Monday), enabling the LGUs to release the funds to those affected by the COVID-19 lockdown on Tuesday or Wednesday.

He said releasing the assistance in cash was faster than distributing basic commodities, which would require bidding, delivery and repacking.

The Department of Budget and Management said over 22.9 million low-income individuals will receive P1,000 under the dole program.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte welcomed the release of funds, but said it was still important to pass a bill creating the Bangon Pamilyang Pilipino (BPP) program that would provide up to P10,000 per poor household.

“Such a stimulus package is needed to rejuvenate business confidence and consumer spending while the government sews up more vaccine deals… to purchase enough doses to hit its target of inoculating 100 percent of the country’s adult population of 70 million,” he said.

The Philippines logged 11,028 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 795,051, as five laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.

Two new fatalities brought the death toll from COVID-19 to 13,425, which is 1.69 percent of the total cases..

The DOH also reported 41,205 new recoveries, the highest number since the pandemic began, pushing the total number of Filipinos who recovered from the disease to 646,100, which is 81.3 percent of the total.

Active cases stood at a high 135,526, which is 17 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 97.4 percent are mild; 1 percent are asymptomatic; 0.6 percent are critical; 0.6 percent are severe; and 0.36 percent are moderate.

The DOH also reported that, nationwide, 60 percent of the ICU beds are in use; 46 percent of the isolation beds are in use; 50 percent of the ward beds are in use; and 42 percent of the ventilators are being used.

In Metro Manila, 78 percent of the ICU beds are being used; 70 percent of the isolation beds are in use; 60 percent of the ward beds are in use; and 60 percent of the ventilators are being used..

On Saturday, the government extended the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed on the National Capital Region Plus, which covers Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, until April 11 amid the continued surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Earlier, the DOH and the OCTA Research Group separately recommended a one-week extension of the ECQ in order to address the rising number of cases.

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, asked the Department of Health how it intended to manage the stress being put on Metro Manila’s health care system as hospitals around the capital contend with overflow capacity and overstretched manpower.

Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, said the government’s crisis managers should consider regrouping and have a “level-headed” assessment of its existing approaches by calling in experts to the discussion to map out a more effective response.

Lawmakers o said extensions lockdowns will only work if health care capacity and testing were expanded.

Lockdowns are imposed, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said, to buy time to prepare a stronger health care response.

“If there will be no changes in our health care capacity, we will merely be deferring new surges of infection for later.”

“We need to consider several force multipliers. First, our telemedicine facilities have to be widely accessible. Second, needed supplies for at-home care have to be available and ready for door-to-door shipping to those in need. This may include everything from oxygen tanks to prescribed therapeutics.

Third, we must equip our isolation centers with treatment facilities so that they can be used in lieu of hospital wards for mild and moderate cases.”

He said the House economic team is monitoring the utilization rates of isolation centers, saying that a recent survey of such facilities showed a utilization rate of government-built isolation centers “hovers just above 10 percent.”

“Covid-19 victims are isolated either at home or are in hospitals seeking treatment. We need to consider fully equipping our isolation centers so that they can also already serve as treatment centers for non-severe cases,” he said.

“Lockdown extensions without healthcare expansion will gradually choke the economy. So, if we will extend the lockdown for another round, we should make the extension worth the pain.”

Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said extending the ECQ will be useless unless DOH revises its approach to COVID control.

Like Salceda, Quimbo, a member of the House minority bloc, said: “Current policies are clearly not working. The number of new cases continue to increase on a daily basis and hospital beds are lacking in areas where the COVID surge is largest.”

First, DOH needs an honest assessment of the situation, Quimbo said.

“They need to accept the fact that the numbers are rising and the numbers that we are seeing are not even reflective of reality because they failed to expand testing and tracing to an appropriate scale for disease control.”

Second, she said a more localized lockdown needs to be implemented at the smallest possible unit – the household.

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