Less gov’t presence may just be the answer

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    ‘We believe the government should … make it easy for the private firms to get hold of these vaccines for their own workers and for the general public, thus taking off some load and burden from the government’s shoulders.’

    BY now, with the COVID-19 pandemic running on its second year, the people must have already been accustomed to the hardship, dread, and suffering connected with living with the coronavirus 2019. The government led by President Duterte may be doing all it can to manage the official response to the most serious public health crisis ever to have occurred in recent memory, but clearly their best is not enough.

    There is nothing more convincing that the government has failed than the numbers of the second wave of COVID-19 infections: 7,999 new cases as of this writing, pushing the active infections to a high of 80,642. Given this, the presidential spokesman still has the temerity to claim victory of the epidemic, even as the health secretary expressed deep hurt over criticisms of their work by a colleague in the medical profession, an ex-health secretary.

    This weekend, Malacañang ordered all government agencies based in areas of general community quarantine (GCQ) to reduce their respective operational capacity between 30 to 50 percent from March 22 to April 4 in the wake of the surging number of new COVID-19 cases. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdia issued the memo to this effect, directing that a higher capacity can only be observed as needed by agencies providing health and emergency frontline services, border control, and other critical matters.

    The order came on the heels of a sudden surge of infections in the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Department of Labor, Department of Justice, Philippine National Police, the courts, and even the Palace communications office itself.

    Despite the national government’s designation of different “czars” for various aspects of fighting COVID-19, still the government is remiss in its mission of stemming the surge of the epidemic. Since the fight against the disease has shifted from the usual contact tracing and RT-PCR tests to determine the presence of the virus in human hosts to the vaccination rollout, it just seems like the onus or responsibility is now being shouldered by just one person, the so-called vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez.

    Galvez has been going around and working incessantly to procure for the Philippines as many vaccine supplies as can be ordered, considering that there is worldwide demand for the vaccines and supply is dwindling. But as Sen. Ping Lacson has pointed out, why is it that with all the funds and the loans prepositioned by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez for the purchase of vaccines, the only doses we now have are those donated by China and the World Health Organization.

    Lacson noted that the government has set a target of 1.7 health workers inoculated by the end of March, after which the official vaccine rollout may shift to the next sector on the list of recipients. Although the vaccination rate has improved to 12,000 a day, it is still a long way off to achieving the initial target just for the initial sectoral beneficiaries who are the medical frontliners.

    With medical workers overworked and hospitals nearing the limit of their capacity, the private sector has ramped up its participation in arresting the spread of the pandemic, with businessmen Ramon Ang, Enrique Razon, Lucio Tan, and others chipping in. We believe the government should welcome this development and make it easy for the private firms to get hold of these vaccines for their own workers and for the general public, thus taking off some load and burden from the government’s shoulders.