"Are their statements based on science or what?"
Days after the first COVID-19 case was detected in the country, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there was nothing extraordinary about this new virus as it was just like any seasonal occurrence.
When told that China had imposed a lockdown and ordered people not only to stay at home but to wear masks when going out, he insisted there was no need for such a measure.
When pressed to say what needed to be done if the virus ever found its way here, he simply prescribed social distancing even carrying a measuring stick to mark at least six feet as the ideal distance between individuals.
As measures to cope with this novel disease came few and far between, we had to put up with Duque’s pronouncements for months on end hoping that sooner rather than later we would finally come out with some things adapted to our situation.
But no. Instead of some creative coping measures we were subjected to numerous restrictions which changed every so often, leaving us wondering whether there was any reason or method to the impositions.
When lockdowns were eased, transport means were so restricted that people had no other recourse but to walk to work or buy goods. At first, jeepneys were not allowed to ply the streets while buses and the trains were told to practice the six feet rule and put all kinds of barriers limiting carrying capacity. Jeepneys which had better ventilation with the side openings were the last to be allowed to hit the streets and also with distance and barrier requirements. Why, those with motorcycles were required to put up barriers at first before the same was ridiculed to death as hazardous and nonsensical.
Restaurants and dining places were closed, groceries and public markets were opened but under strict distancing rules. Gatherings were prohibited and, if allowed, limited to three to five persons also under distancing. Schools have been padlocked for more than a year due to this distancing rule.
Restrictions rather than proactive measures such as barangay-based testing, contact tracing, and other health and home care arrangements, better and simpler advisories, and serious efforts to secure and promote alternative ways to cope with the virus such as use of repurposed drugs like ivermectin.
Even the traditional tuob which had people relieved of coughs and nasal congestion and brought back their smell was simply ignored. Heck, these agencies did not even bother to suggest the value of taking vegetables, native fruits, drinking more liquids and even having cheap supplements to enhance the immune system as a means to keep people at home instead of rushing to hospitals at the first sign of a cold or a headache.
Now, the evidence is emerging that the restrictions were based more on loads of guesswork than science. And, worse, the inability to bombard our people with the correct and simple information on things that mattered added to the burdens.
Recent studies, the latest being that done by MIT researchers, show that Duque’s social distancing rules on almost all interactions had no basis in science. If one is indoors, it does not matter whether you are three feet or six feet or even 60 feet away from an infected person.
As reported, during the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the MIT researchers explained that “an infected person emits the virus in an aerosol that can waft across indoor space, traveling 60 feet or more.” Thus, they concluded that the six-foot rule, which restaurants, churches, schools, gyms, and retailers follow, offers no protection. Instead, the key factors are whether you’re wearing a mask and how much time you spend in the space.
More recently, the leading expert in the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, downplayed the wearing of masks outdoors. Fauci admitted that the risk of contracting COVID outdoors is “really, really quite low” – something which most scientists have known for months because outdoor air movement will disperse the aerosol. The “super-spreader” events reported worldwide including here showed that while the virus can be spread on surfaces and through droplets, it more often floats across indoor spaces and is blown away outdoors. And if people had to spend time indoors what was more important was mask wearing, opening of windows or, if not possible, using fans instead of air conditioners for better circulation and air dispersal.
Now, as our vaccination roll out progresses we are again having counterproductive advisories from the same suspects. We are being told that the fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing and other prevention measures when visiting or talking to unvaccinated people. Is this based on solid science or just another of those guess works coming out of the DoH and FDA?
We are asking this as the evidence that infections among the vaccinated have been rare. In fact, the data from the US in what is considered the world’s most expansive vaccination roll
out thus far, show that the risk of getting infected after vaccination is not even 0.01 percent. Burdening vaccinated people with guesswork, faux scientific restrictions may get the guys at the DoH and FDA some measure of power all over again. But that will be at the expense of people doubting the need for vaccination at all which is already hovering over the roll out due to the Dengvaxia issue. That will not only be unfortunate, worse, it can drag the prospect of recovery for millions of Filipinos from economic, psychological, and mental stress down to the ground all over again. I say enough.