Don’t just wait for vaccine, Duterte told

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    GOOD things don’t always come to those who wait.

    Vice President Leni Robredo criticized President Duterte for the what she said was the absence of a clear response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

    She said the increase in the number of COVID-19 infections will not be addressed by simply waiting for a vaccine from China. The spread of the disease has to be stopped as soon as possible,” she said in a video posted Wednesday on her Facebook page.

    In his SONA last Monday, Duterte said he has asked the Chinese government for early access to the anti-COVID vaccine that it is developing, which he said maybe made available as early as September.

    The first known cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, China late last year but the number of those infected in the Philippines has already surpassed China’s.

    Members of the opposition and some senators have pointed to the absence of a clear COVID response and recovery plan in the President’s SONA, saying everyone had waited for him to reveal his plans in addressing the pandemic, especially now that the number of cases reached 89,374 as of Thursday, or an increase of almost 4,000.

    Robredo offered solutions and advised government to start collecting correct data to be able to make the right decisions, saying this would help in pinpointing which areas should be prioritized for mass testing, contact tracing, and support for local communities and hospitals.

    Through an appropriate healthcare response, she said, community transmission will be avoided and the reopening of the economy will be quicker, safe and more strategic.

    “Maiiwasan ang pagkawala ng trabaho, at hindi na dadami pa ang dadanas ng kahirapan. (We can avoid the loss of jobs and poverty incidence will be controlled),” Robredo said, adding that fears of business shutdowns will also decrease as mass layoffs will be avoided.

    The Vice President said the government should top experts who have been coming up with different platforms as repository of COVID data and make an “ecosystem of response which is standard and centralized.”

    Robredo said that if the data input is wrong, the validation will be slowed down as well as decision-making. She cited the discrepancy in the data of those who initially tested positive for the virus and the confirmed cases, saying that while more than 113,000 tested positive, only 80,000 are confirmed cases which highlights the need for a more efficient data verification since many of those positive cases do not become part of the official data.

    The Vice President called for a massive information campaign, saying the government has a huge network to implement the task. She said the volunteer management process is lacking and suggested that all those who want to help from different sectors should be recorded and assigned to their areas of expertise.

    Robredo called for a quicker turnover time of COVID-19 test results by determining the reason for the backlogs to help laboratories catch up, to help contact tracers do a better job.

    In the case of locally stranded individuals, the Vice President has recommended that they be subjected to swab tests before traveling. She said the government needs to ensure they have decent places to stay because the situation only exposes them to the virus.

    While she supports the call for a “whole nation approach,” Robredo said the pandemic fight should be led by a health professional.

    “Aling direksyon, at sino ang kukumpas? Dapat public health professional na tunay na nakakaintindi ng problema (Which direction and who will steer? It should be a health professional who truly understands the problem),” she said.

    The country’s healthcare system should zero in on increasing the capacity of hospitals because many patients are being rejected and turned down.

    Lastly, she called for the government to step up support for frontliners, including higher salaries during the pandemic and free counseling to avoid burnout.

    “Ididiin ko lang: Pandemya ang ugat ng mga suliranin. Kapag mabisa itong matugunan, matutugunan din ang iba pang hamon. Conversely, habang dumadami ang nagkaka-COVID-19, lalo rin nating pinapatagal ang paghihirap ng Pilipino. Marami ang namamatay, at hindi sila statistics lang (I’d just stress that the pandemic is the root of our problems. If we successfully address it, we can also address other challenges. Conversely, while the number of COVID-19 cases rise, we’re prolonging the agony of the Filipino. Many people die and they’re not just statistics,” Robredo said.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque reiterated the government has implemented some of Robredo’s suggestions on how to improve the COVID-19 response, like tapping and consulting academic and health experts, and continuing to inform the public about the situation.

    He acknowledged Robredo’s concern for the locally stranded individuals (LSIs). He said there was overcrowding at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, where the LSIs are staying while waiting to be transported to their home provinces, because some of them who were excited to return home informed others of scheduled events, which resulted in persons trooping to stadium, even those who have not registered for the transport program.

    Roque said the situation is being addressed. — With Jocelyn Montemayor

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