"Remember, we are not alone in bungling the situation."
Just ignore the naysayers and proceed with what needs to be done. There is no point restarting the debates and replaying the blame game as the country experiences a fresh surge in COVID 19 cases. Those in charge of our pandemic response measures from the IATF, the national agencies and LGUs down to the lowest barangay units should be told that finger pointing will not get us nearer our avowed goal of easing the restrictions and related health protocols and getting the economy back on track.
As the late Senator and Health Secretary Johnny Flavier used to say when asked what to do with the surge in measles during his time: “Just Do It.” That means, closely investigate what’s causing the surge, get the best possible medical protocols and resources in place, educate and inform the public what needs to be done – and then you stop the scourge on its track.
Of course, that’s easier said than done with COVID-19 it being a novel disease. But one year into the global lockdown, and with the laser-like focus this pandemic has been subjected to, we now have a better grasp of its origins and what needs to be done to stem its spread. In due time, we will probably treat it like all the other viral diseases like Ebola, SARS and even HIV which are still around with their deadly consequences. But as some experts have postulated, it is very possible that in time COVID-19 may just become another seasonal disease like the flu.
We know it hurts that the sniping has gotten shriller and the criticism even more personal. And not just from the usual suspects. We are aware that having one of the longest lockdown in the world so far has its own set of consequences including having to experience the worst economic downturn in all of ASEAN possibly by year end. But again, we just have to grin and bear it and get our act together to stem the infections and recalibrate our response measures.
Remember, we are not alone in bungling the situation. European Union (EU) member states including the four most developed, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, have just experienced surges despite the reported improved response measures in each of these countries. Well, much like us with each administrative unit or sectoral grouping tasked to implement the national protocols, the 18-member organization has had to struggle working out each country’s response leaving things finally at the hands of the EU bureaucracy in Brussels.
“The EU response,” the Wall Street Journal noted, “was a combination of threatened export curbs, noisy commercial disputes with pharma companies and sour grapes cavilling about imaginary efficacy concerns (the alleged AstraZeneca vaccine problematic after effect) which mainly undermined Europe’s credibility on trade issues and risks stoking vaccine nationalism and trade restrictions elsewhere”.
“Somehow,” the Journal said, “the European Union—a continent-wide political bloc composed of smaller nation-states—managed to get the worst of both worlds. It’s suffering the lumbering bureaucracy of a large government and the squabbling inefficiency of a small one. Europeans can debate at their leisure whom to blame for this and how to keep it from happening again. The rest of the world will just have to move on.”
Sounds familiar? Just imagine the IATF as the European Union issuing edicts left and right, sometimes in conflict with each other, withdrawing “guidance” every so often depending on the spokespersons, coming out with on-and-off issuances speaking even about variants and the like, parading threats of more restrictive lockdowns and speculations about hospital overload and even “anti-vaccine” sentiments – apparently without any clear, factual basis except for the “case reports” of “accredited testing facilities” many of whose reports have been exposed as either incomplete or altogether untrue in the past. Or, in the case of the epicenter of this surge – Metro Manila – with national agencies competing with the LGUs in reporting “cases” and parading all sorts of response measures seemingly independent of each other.
It should not be hard, for example, for the public and specially government response teams to implement the long standing quarantine measures whether ECQ or MECQ or whatever Q, in each and every locality or sector so we are at a loss why we are having all kinds of debates taking place on how to react to the surge. But just to remind one and all, here are the major measures which should be standardized down to the lowest levels:
a) continuing operation of all government offices and industries, including MSME;
b) for government and industries, various work arrangements such as work-from-home and/or staggered work hours depending on the nature of the work be set;
c) continued operation at limited capacity of malls, groceries, public markets and other essential businesses;
d) mass transportation will continue under existing protocols;
e) limited social and religious gatherings;
f) curfew to be instituted nationwide;
g) face-to-face classes will remain suspended;
h) existing age requirements for getting out-of-residence remain in place and
i) authority to travel lifted but testing and health certifications remain in place.
Of course, these measures to be effective require continuing public education – clear, easily understandable information and firm but compassionate implementation at all levels. Absent such
an operating culture, this will lead to confusion, resentment and anger which can only aggravate the situation. People expect the leadership at the highest levels to make sure that this time around we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. The problem is those assigned by the Chief Executive to do what needs to be done in the best possible and cost effective manner remain oblivious to the demands of the times. In fact, a growing number of people are now suspecting that there are people in high places who just go their merry ways to the point of misinterpreting the instructions to suit their own interests or are simply incompetent, maybe even just indifferent, to know any better.
Our continued inability to get our testing and tracing system in place nationwide a year after the first COVID-19 case was reported is testament to this.
And now an even more condemnable initiative by our very own implementers is about to be put in place unless we expose and oppose this malevolent move. Yesterday, Senator Imee Marcos revealed that “entire industries are being blocked by the Department of Health (DoH) and the IATF/NTF from procuring Covid 19 vaccines…by way of an administrative order which they endorsed for presidential approval..to prevent the country’s largest manufacturers of tobacco, milk, sugar, soda and alcohol as well as multinational firms based in the Philippines from ..assisting in the government’s national vaccination program.”
Under Section 5 of the proposed order, the DoH and the IATF/NTF shall review all requests of private entities to procure vaccines to “ensure that private entities who will be part of the (tripartite) agreement are not in any way related to the tobacco industry, products covered under EO 51 Series of 1986 on the National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements and Other Related Products or other products in conflict with public health.”
Said Marcos: “That means the entire San Miguel Group, the whole Lucio tan Group, Puregold, Nestle, Distilleria Limtuaco, all soft drinks producers and others – all of whom have expressed interest to buy vaccines for their own employees and their families and donate fifty percent of their allocated supply to the public as stipulated in their tripartite agreements with the government and the manufacturers – will not get any at all…” What a harebrained initiative!
Indeed, this order totally disregards the “shared responsibility” approach of close collaboration between and among the government, the business sector and other non-government organizations as enunciated by no less than President Duterte himself in the “Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19.” This comes right after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin lamented the disapproval by no less than vaccine czar Carlito Galvez of the request of members of the three largest Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce for the importation of 500,000 doses of SinoVac after a deal had already been signed.