Thursday, March 4, 2021
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No MGCQ for PH unless there’s COVID vaccine

  • President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines should not be placed under the less stringent modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) unless vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been rolled out
  • Economic managers earlier recommended putting the country under MGCQ to address job losses and boost the economy
  • Rollout of vaccines has been delayed as pharma companies demand an indemnification program to ensure they are not held liable for possible adverse effects caused by vaccination
  • China’s Sinovac vaccine doses are expected to arrive within the month

The Philippines will not move to the less stringent modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) unless vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are rolled out, according to a directive by President Rodrigo Duterte to Cabinet members.

“The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of re-opening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said a statement, adding that Duterte wants vaccination to start “the soonest possible time” in order to ease community quarantine restrictions.

Roque earlier said Duterte would decide on the quarantine classification for March 2021 based on current COVID-19 data analytics.

Acting socioeconomic planning secretary Karl Kendrick Chua earlier said economic managers have recommended putting the country under the less restrictive MGCQ to address job losses and to boost the economy. The Metro Manila Council, composed of Metro Manila mayors, said it supports the reopening of the economy but wants it to be done “gradually.”

MGCQ is the less stringent transition phase between general community quarantine (GCQ) and the “new normal.” Under MGCQ, temporary measures—limiting movement and transportation, the regulation of operating industries, and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols—are relaxed and become less necessary.

Currently, majority of the Philippines is already under MGCQ until this month. Exceptions are Metro Manila, Davao City, Batangas, Tacloban City, Lanao Del Sur, Iligan City, Davao Del Norte, and the Cordillera Administrative Region, which are all under GCQ.

The initial delivery Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses from the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility, which were earlier announced to be arriving by mid-February is, however, seeing delays due to the need to finalize indemnification agreements.

Since COVID-19 vaccines are still under emergency use authorization (EUA) with only limited short-term data available on the full effects that could arise from receiving a shot, several pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, are demanding indemnification programs or funds from governments for the companies not to be held liable in case of possible adverse effects caused by vaccination.

Roque said China’s Sinovac has not asked for indemnification funds and the company’s vaccines would be arriving this month.

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