A timeout from the COVID-19 fight

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    `It is understandable, even without saying so, that the physicians’ distress call was made because the nation’s healthcare system is now “overwhelmed.”’

    WHAT have we been doing wrong?

    This is the question that baffles many Filipinos, and the government, especially the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and President Duterte himself have little to say by way of explanation. We are talking of course about the government’s official response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

    Let us not dance around as Harry Roque had suggested. We have to admit that at this late hour, four-and-a-half months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic, the numbers have negated Malacañang’s own interpretation of the nationwide status of the COVID-19 epidemic. The current tally reads: 103,185 confirmed cases with 5,032 new; 2,059 deaths (20 new) and 65,557 recoveries (301 new).

    Amid the darkness and the hopelessness, there is a ray of light in Secretary Duque’s DOH statement of August 1, at 10 PM, that his Department “supports the call of our frontliners to ensure a science-based approach and stricter implementation of community quarantine measures. We also understand the constraints of our LGUs and will be working with them constantly to achieve results that are beneficial to all.”

    The nation’s physicians, particularly the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), have asked the government to place Metro Manila and nearby provinces again under the stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from August 1-15 as coronavirus disease cases in the country continue to rise. They wanted the hard lockdown imposed in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Mimaropa. PMA president Dr. Jose Santiago said their proposed period of ECQ will serve as a “time-out to recalibrate the government’s COVID-19 strategies.”

    Specifically, the doctors wanted the authorities to address these urgent concerns: hospital workforce efficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, workplace safety, public compliance with self-protection, and social amelioration.”

    It is understandable, even without saying so, that the physicians’ distress call was made because the nation’s healthcare system is now “overwhelmed.”

    Health Secretary Duque said in their dialogue with the medical community, “we have committed to: 1) pro-actively lead the implementation of effective localized lockdowns with the National Task Force in support of local government units; 2) revisit out strategy with the help of the broad range of health sector stakeholders and develop an updated one within 7 days, and 3) advocate for the call for a time-out for NCR in our IATF meeting. Such “timeout” for assessment and renewed planning has been endorsed by President Duterte himself to the IATF, it was reported yesterday by the Philippine News Agency.

    As we write this piece, we were waiting for President Duterte to announce what policy had been taken following his Sunday afternoon meeting with key Cabinet members. Going by the previous developments, chances are huge that we see the looming dark cloud of the ECQ in Mega Manila, and this time, it should be military-style implementation if we have to succeed. At last, the generals in the IATF will have the reason and the encouragement to do their thing.

    Meanwhile, it pays to heed Duque’s “appeal to our citizens for their patriotism and sense of duty to help ensure that our health system and healthcare frontliners are not overwhelmed.”

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