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    THERE is something shockingly strange in the way the Duterte administration has been mishandling the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak and its direct threat to the country.

    While no one is sure if its spread here may be imminent, President Duterte is unable to fully grasp the magnitude of a mounting epidemic not only in Asia but to the rest of the world. He finally declared a ban on all flights from Wuhan only last Friday, days after the disease epicenter went on a lockdown and about 24 hours after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

    Still, Chinese travelers continued to be welcome. A Xiamen Air flight from Jinjiang landed in Davao City last Wednesday and its more than 50 passengers allowed to leave the airport; also last week, some 780 Chinese passengers of a cruise ship were permitted to disembark in Manila. He finally declared a temporary ban on all travelers from China last Sunday, exempting those with permanent residency status here.

    The President and public health officials are suddenly thrust into unknown territory to which more advanced countries had responded with drastic protocols. For one, the government does not think – with a sense of urgency – of distributing face masks to all its citizens for free, as what Singapore has done, and closed its borders to all Chinese travelers as most affected countries have decided.

    The President’s coziness with China does not exempt this unfolding and frightening scenario from his perplexing indifference His trademark gungho willfulness at this deadly juncture for the health and well-being of his own people seems to vanish in the face of what his pathetic officials call “political and diplomatic repercussions that may endanger our remarkably-uneven ties with China.

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    A drunken Korean suddenly collapsing on a Manila street has exposed the inadequacies and limitations of the public health system as well as the local emergency response teams in the face of the current dreaded disease. He was initially reported to be stricken with nCoV by a witness who posted a foto on Facebook, alerting all and sundry that the Korean was trembling and nursing a fever. For about an hour, no one wanted to have anything to do with the “patient,” not any DOH official or doctor, not the Philippine Red Cross or the police whom the netizen claimed he had all reached through phone.

    After some time, when panic nearly reigned in the Malate area (the drunk was lying in his reckless stupor on Taft Ave. corner Remedios St.), the Korean finally sat up and walked away. DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III later told a radio commentator that the first responder in such an emergency, if the Korean had turned out to be an nCoV victim, would be the police.

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    He was facing the cameras when the tears came. Yorme Isko the actor was not playing an emotional part in a teleserye, but was releasing a mouthful against a noted lawyer who lambasted him for his product endorsements on numerous billboards. The lady lawyer said it was improper for public officials like Isko to make use of such outdoor commercials for his political ends even if the public exposures have nothing to do with any government project funded by the people’s money.

    The public will not likely qualify the mayor along with his possible political agenda as a future violator of the Anti-Epal Bill if and when it becomes a law. It was first authored by the late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago in 2017 and refiled by Rep. Robert “Ace” Barbers in 2019.

    Where Yorme Isko, whose life has not been adorned by wealth and privilege, has been bringing the large income from his billboard ads seems somehow nobler and bigger as they are. The public has been treated amazingly to a hugely-generous Yorme giving away his billboard income to calamity victims. In this case, there was a mother he could not turn away. In that live FB post four days ago Yorme could no longer keep his tears from flowing when he said, exasperated, directed at the lawyer, “Anong laban natin sa umaagos na luha ng isang ina para sa kanyang batang anak na may cancer?”