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Mayor Joy Belmonte shares how Quezon City is ramping up its pandemic response and vaccination efforts

By Brooke Villanueva Published May 01, 2021 8:53 am

With the MECQ extension in the NCR Plus bubble following the COVID-19 surge in the country, Mayor Joy Belmonte assured Quezon City residents of one thing: “We are much more ready now compared to last time.” 

“Now, kahit na lockdown, we have invested tremendously in testing,” she told PhilSTAR L!FE at its recently-concluded webinar Let’s Talk: VAX to the Future. “We have more than a thousand antigen tests already procured. We have also been given additional PCR tests that will allow us to test more than 1,000 a day and we are targeting 3,200 isolation beds by May 15.” 

On Quezon City’s pandemic performance 

The city was the first to declare a state of calamity in March last year upon recording six coronavirus cases in the area. The council made such move for the quick response fund, which was used for the procurement of tools and supplies needed to contain the virus.

Despite that early decision, it has become one of the cities with the highest numbers of reported infections in the Philippines. This, however, doesn’t come as a surprise as it’s the largest city in NCR, covering about 25% of the country’s COVID-19 epicenter.

As of Friday, April 30, there has been a total of 82,056 validated infections in the city—with 6,768 active cases, 74,288 recoveries, and 1,000 deaths. The current rate is significantly lower than it was a few weeks ago, noted Mayor Joy.

Such is evident in the city’s three local government hospitals. “During the peak of the surge, umaabot sa more than 100 percent ang utilization ng aming COVID beds, COVID wards, at ICU beds,” she explained. “Higit pa sa 100 percent. Ganyan po kataas ang bilang ng positibong kaso sa lungsod Quezon. Ngayon, nasa 80s nalang po sila. Mataas pa rin, beyond the critical level, but at least, bumaba na.” 

For Mayor Joy, enforcing granular lockdowns has greatly helped the city in keeping the virus contained. “We lock down streets, esteros, compounds, puroks where we have evidence for community transmission,” she explained. “At the earliest possible stage ay nilolockdown na natin sila para macontain ang virus at hindi na ito kumalat sa ating mga communities at sa ibang tao.”

In measuring the city’s performance against the deadly virus, the Q.C. official uses a so-called attack rate instead of absolute numbers. “Ito yung number of cases per hundred thousand. In the case of Q.C. as to attack rate today, it’s at 23% if I’m not mistaken,” she said, “and that puts us in the tenth place among all of the 17 local government units in Metro Manila.”

On Quezon City’s vaccination program

An estimated 136,000 individuals under priority groups A1-A3 (healthcare workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities, respectively) have been vaccinated with their first dose, while 7,052 have received their second shot thus far.

“We have to vaccinate about 1.6 million people here in Q.C. That’s a huge amount. We are very far from that amount,” she shared. “Maayos naman po ang logistics.” 

Apart from online self-booking via EzConsult and assisted booking in barangays, residents may also book their appointments via other options like house-to-house vaccination for the bedridden. 

Aimed at strengthening the city’s vaccination efforts, they additionally launched the QC ProtekTodo Bus. “We have three such buses that go around yung pinakaliblib po ng aming lungsod, mga hard to reach, far-flung areas po ng ating lungsod na ayaw kong mapabayaan dahil sila yung pinakavulnerable,” said the mayor. “Sila po ay pinupuntahan ng ating mga bus para mabakunahan din po.”

Mayor Joy could only turn out grateful for schools, malls, and other establishments that have partnered with the city government for the vaccination program. She noted, however, that while Quezon City has sufficient vaccination sites, they are still waiting for a boost in vaccine supply. 

“We heard that we have received about 8,000 first doses from the shipment that arrived a few days ago. Not much but still, okay na rin kaysa sa wala,” she said. “Alam namin na may shipment na rin na dumating kagabi at alam namin na mayroon siguro kaming matatanggap na 10,000 or more doses from that particular shipment.” 

Mayor Joy advised QCitizens not to be choosy about their COVID vaccine. “Pare-pareho lang naman at the end of the day yung mga bakunang yan. Kapag inaprubahan po ng FDA yan, dumaan na po yan sa masusing pag-aaral. Lalong lalo na kapag dumaan pa sa ibang FDA ng iba pang mga bansa katulad ng mga first world countries,” she declared. “Makasisiguro naman kayo na ligtas ito at epektibo.” 

“So, huwag na pong maging choosy at baka mahawa pa at magkaroon ng COVID,” she stressed, noting how some emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants can spread easily and cause severe health concerns. “If you have that opportunity to be vaccinated, please accept the first vaccine that is offered to you," she concluded.

Article thumbnails from the webinar