Press Release
August 9, 2020

Bong Go describes MECQ as 'one step backward, two steps forward' ; urges public to strictly follow protocols as gov't distributes free face masks

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go said the government is taking one step backward and two steps forward in its decision to revert Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and, at the same time, strengthen testing, tracing and treating capabilities of the health sector.

"Ang thrust po dito one step backward, two steps forward. Bahagi ito ng recalibration ng strategies. Maliban sa pagbibigay ng time out [para sa mga frontliners], ito ay para ma-intensify pa ang testing capacity natin and tracing capability and isolation capacity," the Senator said during an interview given on Saturday, August 8.

Go, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, expressed concern at the rising number of COVID-19 infections which he attributed to increased testing. On August 6, the Philippines overtook Indonesia and emerged as Southeast Asia's new coronavirus hot spot. There are 122,754 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 infection in the country, as of August 7.

However, Go noted that the Philippines also takes the top spot in terms of testing capacity in the region, having conducted a total of 1,643,539 tests with an average of 28,938 tests per day within the last seven days, as of August 4. By comparison, Indonesia conducted an estimated 908,000 tests with an average of 4,291 tests per day during the same period.

"Hindi naman ito parang contest na padamihan ng medalya tulad ng SEA Games na nag-uunahan tayong makakuha ng gold medal. Siyempre, nalulungkot po ako na tumataas ang cases sa ngayon," he said.

Go urged the public to continue adhering to the health and safety guidelines, such face mask-wearing and social distancing, in order to prevent more infections and avoid possible extension of strict community quarantine measures.

According to health experts, properly wearing the right kind of mask decreases the risk of catching the virus by 85%. With social distancing and the use of face shields, this risk may be reduced by more than 90%.

Go commended the government for initiating the provision of free face masks to the poor, following his appeal for a stronger mask-wearing policy.

He noted that this initiative can create jobs for local makers of face masks and, at the same time, can save lives by distributing these free face masks to those who cannot afford to buy their own, particularly the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and other poor Filipinos.

"Next week po, magkakaroon ng programa na (pamimigay ng) free masks. At the same time, makakapagbigay ito ng trabaho o livelihood sa mga gumagawa ng mask, local lang po ito, 'yung washable mask. Sabi ko sa kanila, unahin nila ang mga mahihirap. 'Yung 4Ps members kasi sinasabi natin wear mask, eh sabihin ng mga kababayan natin, wala naman kayong binibigay na mask kaya dapat lang na magkaroon po ng libreng face," shared Go.

When asked about quarantine measures and procedures for COVID-19 cases, the Senator clarified that people with mild cases or are asymptomatic can be quarantined in their homes, provided they comply with the National Task Force on COVID-19's three new isolation requirements: (1) they must have a separate bedroom for the patient's exclusive use throughout the isolation period, (2) a separate bathroom, and (3) they must not be living with people at risk of severe illness from the virus.

According to the NTF, if COVID-19 patients cannot fulfill any of the requirements, they will be transferred to a government quarantine facility with the assistance of local health workers.

Meanwhile, Go also expressed his support for the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act and the Financial Institution Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act which will complement the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One bill. Also called as Bayanihan 2 bill, it is the enhanced successor of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and will include measures to aid economic and social recovery of the country.

Likewise, Go also vowed that the poorest and most vulnerable sectors who have been struggling most under the quarantine measures should be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.

"Ako naman, siguraduhin natin once available ang vaccine, unahin natin ang mahihirap, 'yung vulnerable. Sila po ang pinipilit nating manatili sa bahay. Ang problema, ito ang mga kailangang lumabas para magtrabaho. Vulnerable sila sa sakit dahil sila ang mahihirap nating kababayan. So unahin natin sila, tulungan natin sila. 'Wag kayong mag-aalala.... Kayo ang uunahin kapag may vaccine na, 'yun po ang sisiguraduhin ni Pangulong Duterte," said Go.

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