Malilong: Show us the numbers

The Other Side

LATE last week, the Philippine Star reported that the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 42 new Covid-19 deaths in the country in one day—the highest in three months—and 36 of them were from Cebu. “Is this true?” lawyer Joseph Baduel asked. “People don’t like to be kept in the dark.”

I replied that I shared his sentiment but I had no way of verifying the report and therefore we had no choice but to wait for the DOH-Central Visayas or the Cebu City Health Department to clarify or correct the story. No such clarification came, at least none that I came to know.

When Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu came to Cebu last month as President Duterte’s field commander in the battle against the pandemic, one of the first things that he did was to admomish the DOH and the CHD to harmonize their figures. He did not ask them to keep their mouths shut, but shut was what happened particularly on the part of the CHD.

The DOH does give out figures every now and then, which on a good week, means three or four days apart. Thus, most days of the week, we are kept blind as to what has happened or what was happening to the government’s campaign to contain the pandemic.

It is possible that the figures that the CHD used to release were not a hundred percent accurate but so what, an allowance can be made for human errors. The correct approach is to minimize the mistakes, not to clam up altogether and create a void in information which is dangerous because it attracts speculation, if not outright misinformation.

It is not enough to tell us that the situation is improving. Show us the numbers. How many cases do we average every day now? Where do these cases come from? How many deaths? Can the patients now be assured of accommodation in our hospitals?

The last time these data were made available to us, they did not paint a rosy picture of the Covid-19 situation in the city but we coped with it. We did not panic. There was no hysteria. There is therefore no reason not to trust us with the facts, no matter how unpleasant they may be.

Speaking of the availability of hospital rooms, the shortage of critical care facilities was one of the reasons cited by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in recommending that Cebu City be placed under ECQ again, starting June 16.

At that time, our hospitals were said to be in danger of being overwhelmed.

A recent Rappler story, citing DOH records, said Central Visayas is one of four regions that are in the “warning zone” in terms of bed capacity for coronavirus patients. The others are Calabarzon, Davao Region and Central Luzon.

Our isolation beds utilization rate is 64 percent. The National Capital Region (NCR) is in the “danger zone” at 76 percent. A number of Metro Manila hospitals have announced that they had no more beds available for Covid-19 patients.

The NCR is under general community quarantine (GCQ). The spike in coronavirus infections in Cebu City also occurred when we were under GCQ. You can draw your own conclusions.


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