National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. called for everyone to work together in controlling the spread of COVID-19 as he highlighted the urgent need to not only safely reopen various sectors, but more importantly, keep the economy open.
“Though the lockdown bought us time to increase public health capacity, we now must face the challenge of reopening the economy,” Galvez said in a meeting with the private sector.
He expressed deep gratitude towards the Task Force Test, Trace, Treat (T3) and its private sector partners in coming together to ramp up the country’s overall testing capacity to 74,000 tests per day, with 75 labs and a turnaround time of just 72 hours or less for results. This increased from a capacity of 3,000 tests per day in April and only 17 labs with a turnaround time of 2 weeks, before the T3 coalition was formed.
T3 is a partnership between the IATF, the Department of Health, the Asian Development Bank, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation and several dozen private organizations. Its goal is to help ramp up the government’s Testing, Tracing and Treatment efforts to beat COVID-19.
Deputy Chief Implementer Secretary Vince Dizon added that the goal is to now do 10 million tests within the next 10-12 months, with plans to aggressively expand testing protocols to non-medical personnel, particularly to essential workers frequently in contact with large volumes of people such as security guards, cashiers, market and street vendors, and transport sector workers, as well as in economic zones and priority tourist destinations.
“It has been a challenging fight thus far, and we will continue to face these challenges head on through various efforts of the national and local governments and with the private sector as an invaluable partner in this fight. It is only by working together that we can again start to rebuild our lives and the economy,” Dizon said.
Discipline will be vital in the New Normal
Galvez and Dizon also stressed that as the country opens up more, every Filipino must take more responsibility and be very disciplined in following basic health measures and precautions to ensure their own safety as well as the safety of the public. They also called on both local governments and private companies to strictly enforce the wearing of masks, frequent hand washing, and physical distancing.
They also urged the private sector to do their part in testing their workforce and conducting aggressive contact tracing in the workplace using StaySafe.ph. They cited the effort undertaken by the San Miguel Corporation to open their own COVID-19 laboratory to test all of their 70,000 employees.
PPP at its best
T3 was established at the end of April in response to the President’s call for a whole-of-nation approach to battling COVID-19, and since then almost all the major companies throughout the country have responded resoundingly in an unprecedented partnership with the government.
“We would not have been able to do all of these without the help of our partners in the private sector,” Dizon said. “This is why we humbly ask for continued partnership with the private sector to support the way forward to manage COVID-19 and keep the economy open safely for the benefit of every Filipino.”
The private sector also expressed its commitment to continue to support the initiatives of T3 moving to its next phase. The heads of partner companies were present at the briefing and conveyed their intent to help and train people to get back on their feet. This includes helping them practice behavioral modification and situational awareness during the new normal.
Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman and CEO of Ayala Corporation, said that as more of the country reopens, there is a need to greatly expand risk-based testing.
“Our health care workers, our frontliners in sectors like utilities, banking, retail, sanitation and security; as well as our employees who will be returning to the workplace, all need to be tested regularly. We in the business community stand by our commitment to partner with government so that Filipinos can resume their lives, with utmost care and proper precautions.”
Josephine Gotianun-Yap, Filinvest Development Corp. President and CEO, recognized the need for timely data analysis and surveillance. “We laud the efforts of the government to get us back to our normal lives. Timely and efficient data gathering, and reporting are also crucial. We are willing to continue to lend technical assistance to local government units to strengthen field surveillance for prompt data so immediate action can be done,” she said during the briefing.
Manny V. Pangilinan, Chairman of Metro Pacific Investments Corp, PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc., also stressed how important contact tracing is if people will be learning to live while managing the virus. As such, more technology should be used such as the contact tracing app, StaySafe.ph. “We need more accurate contact tracing as more of our employees go back to work,” he said.
For parties interested in participating in T3, please contact Bill Luz of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.