Fernando: Are we losing it?


A DAY after the government announced that Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) this first half of August, 60 organizations of health workers through their representatives conducted a press conference pleading for the government to reassess their approach and to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action to address the pandemic. The letter is surely a distress call, like a sound the alarm call, from our frontliners because, accordingly, we are “waging a losing battle and failing miserably.”

There was a time when the average number of infected was stuck around two hundred to three hundred cases. This number, though scary, was not alarming compared to other countries that record thousands in their daily tally. Later on, we learned that the number did not really reflect the current condition then due to a limited number of Covid-19 testing kits. The Department of Health (DOH) could not do enough testing. There was also a problem in data gathering due to the delayed test results. Ideally, test results should be given on the same day of testing but people had to wait for a couple of days to learn about the result.

When the testing and data gathering were improved, we saw a sudden jump of cases. We were having around a thousand cases a day, a record high. DOH explained that a large piece of this number comes from the backlogs thus there was no enough reason to overreact. Harry Roque, the spokesperson of the palace, even said back in June that we won because we were able to beat the prediction of the University of the Philippines (UP), based on their study. The prediction was for the country to reach the 40,000 marks by the end of that month. Since the DOH tally was only around 37,000 at that time, the good spokesperson, believed that we were on the right track. However, many questioned the accuracy of the record because other data suggested that the cases were at 46,000.

With the recommendation of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF), the president lifted the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces. It was to open the economy after being harshly battered by the pandemic. Covid-19 hit the economy so badly that we have witnessed the plights of ordinary employees who decided to go back to their provinces because they lost their jobs. Many businesses have closed and others have to lay off almost half their employees.

A couple of weeks after easing the quarantine in Metro Manila that allowed the opening of various businesses and more people movement, we witnessed another rise of Covid-19 cases. This time, it was getting out of hand. We were having around two thousand cases a day. DOH would assure the public that the surge was expected because of the opening of the economy. The sharp rise of positive cases was labeled DOH as “expected” and there was nothing to worry about. At one time, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque boldly declared that the country had already fattened the curve. After drawing flaks, he retracted saying it was just a "bent" of the curve.

Last week’s number of cases baffled us when the country recorded more than four thousand and a few days later, more than six thousand was tallied. This was the time when these health organizations came out to express their sentiments to the government through their press conference. The message was clear. For them, we are heading toward the wrong side of the road and there is a need to reassess our directions. The government must employ a different approach to save a losing war. We, as a country, are failing.

These organizations are crying foul for the lack of sufficient support from the government. The president told them that he hears their pleas but went on to chastise them for seemingly trying to demean the government. Officials of these health organizations explained that there was no intention to demean the administration or call out a revolution. For them, they only wanted to show the real deal. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients. Hospitals have to send away patients who, in their professional opinions, do not need immediate medication due to the overwhelming number of Covid-19 patients. Hospital corridors and parking areas are now being used as wards.

Frontliners need medical equipment to ensure their health and safety. They ask for the timely provision of their benefits because, accordingly, there was an apparent delay. Doctors and nurses, including the bulk of the frontliners, are feeling exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally. Others are already infected and a number have resigned. They are also counting their deads. This is an apparent indication that our last defense against the virus, the frontliners, is contemplating submission.

The government, on their part, borrowed a hefty amount from banks to aid the people at the beginning of the pandemic. The harsh thing, it seems, is that we might have already spent the main chunk of our resources. The president said in one of his speeches that we have already run out of resources, though, this must not be taken literally and seriously.

In another speech, he assured the public that he will find or make ways to get money to aid the people. This assurance sends a positive message that he feels our frustrations but the acknowledgment that the country has a problem on resources is apparently louder and clearer. This is not good news especially when we see a lot of our people getting hungry.

The public is getting hungry and the frontliners are feeling exhausted. They are our armies in the front lines and fatigue and frustrations are starting to get the better of them. The government tries to show composure and confidence but the people see something different. Something uncertain. The war against Covid-19 rages. Are we losing it?


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