Decision-makers in the pandemic zone, whatever lockdown levels there may be, properly need prevalence estimates to determine the right moves to check the coronavirus that has killed thousands and infected millions.
This is a tall order for the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases, which have been on the front line in this battle to contain this public health emergency.
We know they have stood up and been closely monitoring COVID-19 as from mid-March last year, when the pandemic stormed into the country’s shores, forcing the government to quickly impose basic health protocols to check the spread of infections and deaths.
Getting prevalence estimates requires technical knowledge of test performance, as measured in published trials; institutional knowledge of how tests are actually conducted and reported; and the analytical ability to make sense of that confused picture.
These prevalence estimates don’t need to be perfect, just good enough to allow policy-makers—in this case the government, through the Department of Health and the IATF—to make better decisions.
Decision-makers must rely on science in various fields: virology, immunology, clinical medicine, epidemiology and public health.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic poses difficult interdependent decisions for professionals and the patients they serve.
They must answer questions like: When should malls, clinics, schools, salons, meat-packing plants, movie theaters, and other entities open? When should they close because of proven, possible, or perceived problems? When should they be reopened? And under what conditions?
Individuals must answer complementary questions. When is it safe enough to visit a physician’s clinic, get a dental or a dermatologist or ophthalmologist check-up, shop for clothing, ride the bus, visit kin, or go to the gym?
What does it mean that some areas are under Alert Level 1 or 2 and some places are in granular lockdowns?
How do people make sense of conflicting advisory on the use of face masks and face shields among basic protocols being implemented?
It would be a source of great comfort to know that the guidelines we follow are not arbitrary, but have basis in science.