The big difference

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    ‘If the healthcare aspect is properly addressed, community transmission will be controlled; the economy can be opened in a manner that is quick, safe, and strategic; job loss can be avoided; and fewer people will have to suffer.’

    VICE President Leni Robredo’s speech on the current crisis confronting the country, delivered two days after President Duterte delivered his 5th State of the Nation address, showed the huge difference in the style of leadership of the country’s top two leaders.

    Let’s focus on the matter of vaccine for the COVID-19 that has so far afflicted more than 17 million all over the world and claimed the lives of more than 670,000. In the Philippines, the severe four-month lockdown has not slowed down the virus from contaminating more than 85,000 and claiming the lives of nearly 2,000 people.

    Robredo said: “Hindi mapipigil ang pandemya kung basta mag-aabang na lang tayo ng bakuna. Kailangang maampat ang pagkalat nito sa lalong madaling panahon. Nagsisimula ang lahat sa tamang datos, na pundasyon ng tamang desisyon. Mula dito, matutukoy kung sino at aling mga lugar ang dapat tutukan pagdating sa mass testing, contact tracing, at suporta sa mga komunidad at ospital. Kung magiging tama ang tugon sa aspekto ng healthcare, mako-control ang community transmission, magiging mas mabilis, ligtas, at strategic ang pagbubukas ng ekonomiya, maiiwasan ang pagkawala ng trabaho, at hindi na dadami pa ang dadanas ng kahirapan. Mababawasan ang pangamba ng pagsasara, at hindi na kakailanganing umabot sa punto ng pagle-layoff sa mga empleyado, o mas malala, sa pagtiklop ng mga negosyo.”

    (Merely waiting for the arrival of a vaccine will not stop the pandemic. Its spread must be stemmed in the soonest possible time. Everything begins with correct data, which is the foundation of correct decisions. From there, we can identify whom and which areas to focus on as regards mass testing, contact tracing, and community and hospital support. If the healthcare aspect is properly addressed, community transmission will be controlled; the economy can be opened in a manner that is quick, safe, and strategic; job loss can be avoided; and fewer people will have to suffer. Anxieties brought about by businesses closing down will be stemmed; they will not anymore have to reach the point when they have to lay off employees, or worse, fold up.)

    This is what Duterte said last Monday:

    “We live in a troubled time. Our dream of prosperity for our country was suddenly snuffed by a pandemic virulent virus. No nation was spared. Neither rich nor poor were exempt from the onslaught of this deadly disease.

    “But let us not despair. The vaccine is around the corner. Sooner and not later, the virus that gobbled up thousands of lives will itself be laid to rest.

    “Until the COVID-19 vaccine is available, I will not allow the traditional face-to-face teaching or learning unless [all] risks of exposure to sickness are eliminated. I cannot and will not put to risk the health and lives of our students and teachers.

    “About two weeks ago, I — I seemed to have said that I would allow the face-to-face classes to resume. But we were talking actually of January because my thinking is that by September, we would have the vaccine. How to get it from the producers or from other governments is really something which we have to deal with because everyone — the… It’s a global need and everyone will go for it.

    “But let me just mention it in passing that about four days ago, I made a plea to President Xi Jinping that if they have the vaccine, can they allow us to be one of the first or if it is needed, if we have to buy it, that we will be granted credit so that we can normalize as fast as possible.

    “Life that is lost is lost forever. Courses that are not substantial can be supplemented. Education that is delayed can be recovered.”

    Reality check: An article by the fact-checking group VERA Files (Disclosure: I’m a trustee and writer of VERA Files) said “The international scientific community is moving at a record speed to develop the first-ever coronavirus vaccine as it races against time with nearly four million people already infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    “Some researches for candidate vaccines against COVID-19 already began as early as January, right after Chinese scientists were able to isolate and publish the genome sequence of the causative agent of the disease called the SARS-COV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2).

    “Some scientists and world leaders optimistically say a COVID vaccine, which can help immunize the public from the contagious disease, can be developed as early as this year or in early 2021. No less than World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Tedros Abeyasinghe has said the only way to control the spread of the novel coronavirus is through a vaccine.

    “Among the hopeful leaders, President Rodrigo Duterte said he believes that a vaccine is ‘the number one cure’ against COVID-19, which first emerged in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. Duterte, who earlier claimed that the disease would just die a “natural death,” now offers a P50 million reward for any Filipino who develops a vaccine. He also promised to immediately lift the Luzon-wide community quarantine once a vaccine is discovered and available in the country.

    “But other experts cautioned that a coronavirus vaccine might never be developed, just like what happened in previous outbreaks caused by other coronaviruses, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-COV).”

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