"We can turn this around if each of us does our part in our own home."
One week until the tentative end of the Enhanced Community Quarantine or Luzon-wide lockdown, we are leaning toward an extension.
The good intent of the lockdown is clear—prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. But clearly now it is easier said than done.
The inter-agency task force headed by Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque has listed at least five factors to consider in recommending a continuation or modification of lifting of the lockdown: The trend in the COVID-19 epidemiological curve, capacity of the healthcare system, social, economic and security factors.
Based on the same IATF guideline, we realize how grossly the incidence of infection had been under-reported, owing to the lack of COVID-19 testing kits. The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine reportedly only had 2,000 testing kits. Some government officials readily availed themselves of these.
Additional testing centers have been established, and over a hundred thousand testing kits have been acquired. Still, these are definitely not sufficient to meet the requirements of the influx of patients needing to undergo COVID-19 tests.
RITM and seven other testing centers are mostly located in Metro Manila. There are only a few sub-national testing centers in the Visayas and Mindanao.
In southern Mindanao, there is only one testing center, the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. With the suspension of public transportation, how in the world can the poor people in the barrios get to the hospitals for initial evaluation and, eventually for a COVID-19 test at the SPMC?
More laboratories are reportedly being prepared but have to meet the standards of the World Health Organization and get the approval of the DOH and the Food and Drugs Administration.
Even in Metro Manila, a large number of possible COVID-19 may not be reported because people can hardly afford to get medical services even with the limited PhilHealth coverage.
The cases of harassment and growing discrimination against COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation and persons under monitoring), as well as health workers, have also discouraged possible patients to come out for medical checkup.
Unfortunately, such ignorance is due to the lack of public information about the coronavirus disease itself, the proper care and treatment, and support for recovery of patients.
Our people need to hear the stories of recovery of 64 or so COVID-19 patients so that we can appreciate what a great job the doctors, the nurses and other health workers did to help them beat the dreaded disease, away from their families.
Our people largely understand now the rationale of the community quarantine.
We must realize the need for more sacrifices with the likely extension of the lockdown in Luzon and those in the rest of the country as imposed by the local government units by virtue of the President’s Executive Order.
There are those who argue against continued lockdown, saying that it will further widen the gap between the rich and poor, as millions of Filipino workers and businesses have been displaced. That is true.
There are those who protest that more people have actually died from car crash and other diseases like tuberculosis, dengue and HIV, and we never had to lock down.
Those may be true, too. But this global pandemic that has infected over one million people and killed thousands worldwide is a totally different animal—it is a monster that has killed doctors, nurses and policemen in the bloody frontline.
With everyone’s cooperation, though, we can eventually control the further transmission of this disease and flatten that curve while scientists scramble to discover an antidote.
Only when we attain the viable balance the continued threat of COVID-19 and our enhanced capacity to fight and stop it can we hope to get out of lockdown.
We need to believe we can turn this around if each of us does our part in our own home, and that is to strictly observe personal preventive measures against contracting coronavirus.
The bottom line is, under any circumstances, each of us is accountable for one’s own health and well-being.