Are we winning or losing the fight?

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    ‘Various pre-existing problems in Philippine society have snagged the otherwise determined effort to resolve this public health crisis.’

    THE government — specifically the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) — would like us to believe that the Philippines is winning the fight against COVID-19.

    The official tally for the Philippines reads: 36,438 cases nationwide, 9,956 recoveries, and 1,255 deaths. That was as of Monday, June 29.

    Metro Manila and Cebu City are the nation’s most important metropolises, where the concentration of population, trade and commerce, education and health care are located. They are also the places most ravaged by the pandemic.

    Despite the everyday assurances of correct policies and proper management by the Department of Health (DOH), Malacañang and the IATF, the people have this uncanny feeling that something catastrophic is amiss. Things are not quite right when the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief sends one general after another to Cebu to fight the virus while the DOH readies its reserve force called the Doctors to the Barrios Program to leave the barrios and go to Cebu City to take on the role of reinforcement. Many indicators point to the fact that we are not winning this war, even without giving credence to the heckling of Antonio Trillanes and Vice President Leonor Robredo.

    Official data from the World Health Organization (WHO) last week showed that the Philippines had logged 8,143 new cases since June 16, the highest among 22 countries in the Western Pacific. Singapore was a far second with, 2,351 cases during the same period, while China had 302.

    The senators are most vocal about the government’s reported mishandling of the pandemic. Senate President Vicente Sotto III said “something is very wrong,” while Sen. Panfilo Lacson noted that the WHO report was expected as the DOH had mishandled the government’s response to the pandemic and that it even misled the public into believing that everything has been under control from the start.

    The health department sounded apologetic when it asked Filipinos “not to cherry-pick the countries we want to compare ourselves to.” The DOH pointed out that our socioeconomic context, particularly living conditions, as well as health system capacity, even prior to COVID-19, is different from Singapore. That may be true, but how about Vietnam, which outpaced Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. in winning the war against the pandemic? This alibi by the DOH just won’t fly.

    Various pre-existing problems in Philippine society have snagged the otherwise determined effort to resolve this public health crisis. One example is the feud among local politicians in Cebu. Another is the favoritism in implementing punishment against violators of quarantine protocols, as evidenced by the Sinas case.

    If we have to blame anything or anybody for this failure, we can look no farther than our noses.

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