“We can come to the conclusion that a lot more Filipinos are sick than what is reported.”
Omicron, the prevalent COVID-19 variant, is wreaking havoc everywhere in the world. Countries are locking down territories because of record-breaking cases daily. As I mentioned in my previous pieces, these countries are able to detect hundreds of thousands of cases because their testing capabilities are much, much better than ours.
Here, the numbers being reported by the Department of Health (DOH) very significantly increase daily although much less compared with what other countries report. As of Friday, January 21,819 new cases were recorded with a positivity rate of 40 percent. Some would say that this is not much. However, the 40-percent positivity rate means that four test positive out of every 10 people tested. This is a real cause for worry. The “low” number of reported cases can only mean that we are not testing enough.
From the start of this pandemic, the demand of many has been for DOH to do mass testing. We did not learn the past two years and we are back to square one. Free mass testing is crucial if we are to know the real magnitude of the problem. Again, people are demanding free mass testing.
If we go by what we know and what people say on social media, we will surely come to the conclusion that a lot more Filipinos are sick than what is reported. Personally, I know entire families who tested positive for COVID-19 and most of them paid for their tests. Friends and acquaintances are getting the virus, going on self-isolation, and doing whatever they can to get well. Again, I hear ambulance sirens intermittently like last year. To me, this is always an indicator that people are needing hospitalization.
Another indicator is the fact that paracetamol is out of stock from drug stores and usual sources. It is common knowledge that paracetamol is taken by those with COVID-19 symptoms, especially fever. This is the first time in my life that I have heard of paracetamol being scarce. In fact, someone close to me who is symptomatic could not find any in Makati. I needed to send the only ones I had at home and it was not much.
Just scroll down Facebook or Twitter timeline and surely, one will come across numerous posts of people saying they have COVID-19 symptoms. It is as if almost everyone is getting it. Are they getting tested for the virus? Many are, but at their own expense. Some choose to wait it out thinking that what they have would go away. This is especially true for those with mild symptoms. However, if they do not properly isolate, they put others in harm’s way.
Tests are not cheap. According to DOH Department Circular (DC) No. 2020-0391, RT-PCR tests can be had for a price tag of P3,800.00 to P5,000.00 per test. This can even go higher when there is a shortage and depending on where one sources it from. Ordinary Filipinos will not be able to afford this. Imagine spending at least P19,000.00 to test a family of five.
COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing is also available and the DOH DC No. 2021-0323 puts the price cap at P960.00 per kit. This is cheaper but some say, less accurate. Still, spending almost P5,000.00 for a family of five will not be easy for ordinary Filipinos especially since this pandemic has brought poverty levels to new highs. Thus, we wonder, how do ordinary families, especially those in congested communities, cope?
No wonder, people are again demanding free COVID-19 mass testing.
Still, the government refuses to do this. Instead, it is planning to curtail the unvaccinated population’s freedom of movement. It is true that the virus, especially the Omicron variant, is highly contagious and per experts, those who are unvaccinated are more at risk to get it. They also have higher chances of needing hospitalization and getting severe COVID-19.
I fully understand that the government has the right to curtail certain freedoms of people if the general welfare and well-being of the whole population is at stake. However, preventing unvaccinated people from going out cannot be the only solution. It is impossible to put in house arrest all those who refuse to or have not had the chance to get inoculated.
Government can go on a house-to-house vaccination drive. I am sure that there are those who want to be vaccinated but just do not know how or where to get it. As far as those who refuse, home visits can facilitate a proper discussion and people can express their apprehensions about vaccines.
This is doable. Some local government units (LGUs) have done home visits to vaccinate the elderly and those with disabilities. Some form of “ayuda” was delivered right to our doorsteps last year. There are also those that deliver “care packages” to those who are COVID-19 positive and are unable to get their daily needs. Someone I know has received hers from Marikina City. These initiatives can just be expanded for a vaccination drive.
Government cannot just curtail rights and not do other things to address the real problem. Free mass testing and vaccination drives will surely help.
@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook