Nothing beats forward planning

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    FILIPINOS and the government should not be complacent in matters concerning the outbreak of coronavirus 2019, which goes by the name COVID-19. Very near China where the virus first appeared, the Philippines may just be lucky that there is no local transmission yet and the three individuals who have contracted the disease were all foreigners who happened to be infected abroad, particularly Hubei province in China.

    Malacanang and the World Health Organization are both happy that there has been no report of new coronavirus cases in the Philippines, despite the country’s proximity to China, and the presence in the Philippines of more than 300,000 Chinese who are working in Philippine Overseas Gaming Operators (POGOs). This fact goes to show that the government, under President Duterte, has been fairly successful in instituting early containment measures against this novel public health scourge.

    The call today, as Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, is for the people to help and cooperate with the government to prevent and contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Secretary Andanar commended every one for doing a good job, as he announced that the World Health Organization recently cited the Philippine as one of the countries that had not reported a new case of coronavirus for more than two weeks now.

    This status may be appreciated more when contrasted with such countries as Italy, whose 800 or so infection cases have doubled to 1,600 in just 24 hours, or the outbreaks in Indonesia and Mexico.

    The communications secretary is right in saying that “this is no time to celebrate as there is much work to be done” in the fight against the virus.

    “In some parts of the globe, local transmission has been prevalent. We cannot let our guard down and lull ourselves into complacency. We have to remain vigilant, prepared and united in combating his global health emergency,” he said.

    The Philippines is not yet off the hook in this public health problem, as the virus is still spreading elsewhere. The WHO recently raised the global risk of COVID-19 to its highest level as cases continue to surge outside China. The virus has infected more than 86,000 globally and left more than 2,900 dead.

    The silver lining is that WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently announced that the spread of the coronavirus could be contained, citing the Philippines and eight other counties that have not reported a coronavirus case for more than weeks. The countries include Belgium, Cambodia, Finland, Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka and Sweden.

    The situation in the Philippines may be considered “manageable,” with just three confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and only one fatality. As of March 2, a total of 43 patients under investigation are still in hospitals while 592 have been discharged. Public awareness and preparedness, good public health policy, timely and early mitigation measures, and transparency in recording the latest and most accurate information to the public have been cited as among the key reasons why the nation is doing well in this latest public health challenge.

    Andanar stressed: “The government also accepts all comments and tries to process reports to discuss and arrive at informed and data-driven policy decisions ensure public health and maintain safety and security of all people in the Philippines and of course Filipinos abroad.”

    As a sign of preparedness, the Palace announced through Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles that the government is prepared to lock down whole villages, towns, cities or provinces if needed to contain any virus outbreak, even as quarantine sites in the Visayas and in Mindanao have also been identified. Nothing beats forward planning.