President Rodrigo Duterte is urging the public not to lose hope amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), stressing that a vaccine may soon be within reach.
“Let us not despair. The vaccine is around the corner. Sooner and not later, the virus that gobbled up thousands of lives will itself be laid to rest,” he said in his fifth and penultimate state of the nation address (SONA) on Monday.
According to Duterte, he recently appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping to commit to giving the Philippines the privilege of being among the first countries to avail of a potential Covid-19 vaccine once it is available. Earlier, the President said China, among other countries, is developing a vaccine that could be available as early as September.
He acknowledged that developing a vaccine may take some time but at the same time, gave credit to all workers on the frontline against Covid-19.
“Let us express the nation’s gratitude to those who courageously and willingly put their lives on the line to serve the people and country. We share the griefs of their families and no amount of tears can compensate their great losses,” he said, referring to healthcare workers.
He admitted that the government initially encountered difficulties ramping up its Covid-19 testing capacity, but took pride in saying that there are now 93 accredited testing laboratories nationwide and that government intends to conduct 1.4 million tests by end of July and ensure a quick turnaround time of 48 to 72 hours.
Besides healthcare workers, he thanked those who made possible the steady supply of food, water, and basic utilities, and the provision of basic social services and financial assistance to people.
Duterte expressed gratitude to those who help maintain peace and order in communities including soldiers, policemen, and security guards.
He also thanked members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the National Task Force against Covid-19 for keeping the pandemic in check as well as local government units (LGUs) that stepped up and initiated their own response measures to contain the effects of Covid-19 and its impact to their constituents.
Meanwhile, he said the government is also aiming to increase people’s access to healthcare services by deploying over 20,000 health professionals by 2021.
“In 2021, we aim to increase access to healthcare services by continuously hiring and deploying more than 20,000 health professionals. This will augment the health workforce in LGUs particularly in isolated and disadvantaged areas,” he said.
Duterte said they will implement projects and establish improved barangay health stations, rural health units, and other healthcare facilities.
He urged Congress to pass health-related measures such as a law creating the National Disease Prevention and Management Authority to better prepare for future pandemics and the Advanced Nursing Education Act to improve nursing education and working conditions for nurses.
He also asked Congress to amend the Continuing Professional Development Act, saying its requirements are no longer realistic. (PNA)