FOR a problem to be given the right solution, it is imperative that it be correctly defined in all its ever expanding dimensions.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu’s coming to Cebu with a contingent of soldiers does not so much indict Cebu City for its failure to contain the spread of Covid-19 as it does the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) for its failure to recognize a grim new dimension of the pandemic problem.
Three months into our fight against Covid-19 we came to learn that, although more highly contagious, it is not as deadly as Sars and Mers before it. But by the time we took cognizance of this fact quarantine protocols have taken their toll on the economy, further impoverishing poor Filipinos, making them more vulnerable to other diseases that we also came to realize was killing more people daily than Covid-19.
It is facile of IATF-EID to blame the virus’ high infection rate on hardheaded Cebuanos. The virus is still spreading because the poor, not just Cebuanos, are now even more constrained to violate health protocols in order to survive not so much Covid-19 (what little money they have has to go to food not masks, alcohol or soap) as the other killer diseases.
The lockdowns Cimatu is tasked to strictly implement might lower the death rate of the virus which, as earlier mentioned, is lower than Sars’ and Mers’. But it will increase the death rate of other diseases. Daily wage earning Filipinos and those eking out a living in the underground economy have no choice but dare soldiers to stop them because inside they are like saying “we are going to die anyway without food and medicines so they can shoot us down for all we care.”
Governor Gwen Garcia is right. Quarantine should ease up and the economy re-started so people can earn the money they need to survive hunger and other diseases. If Covid-19 continues to spread, a small percentage of those infected will die. But if the economy crashes, a bigger percentage of the population will die from starvation and other diseases.
Lockdowns should scale down to the barangay/sitio level and residents provided by government with basic necessities. The Siracusa Principles allow Public Health to be a ground for the curtailment of certain rights but not the right to the basic necessities of living. Otherwise, no soldier can prevent hungry people from violating health protocols in their struggle to survive.
A delicate balancing act is what is called for. We must contain the spread of Covid-19 but not with ways that increase deaths from other diseases. Cimatu and the soldiers are a clear case of overkill that solves no problem and serves only to insult the intelligence and resourcefulness of Cebuanos.