For something more glaring in the immediate present, we waited for the State of the Nation Address (Sona) to mention the Covid-19 crisis, particularly on the Delta variant and, perhaps, for the long haul, some legislation it would ask of Congress to ramp up the nation’s capacity to deal with a future health crisis.
And this is what President Rodrigo Duterte said: “It is necessary for us to overcome the crippling fear and anxiety caused by the threat of the Covid-19 virus. But I really do not know what to do. I have to listen to the task force.... Sila ang magsabi. We’re just waiting for word, I am referring to the Covid-19 [variant], Delta. It’s rampaging now in Indonesia, Thailand, India, and many parts of Asia. Ang sabi doon sa western medicine, it is far more aggressive, far more dangerous, and it can cause death easily than the Covid-19 original.... If something wrong happens, I have to be strict.... Maybe we just have to pray for salvation.”
That is how the President updates the country on the state of government’s fight against the crisis, although on ground the Department of Health (DOH) has already opened Door 3 and 4 protocols in its “national-government-enabled, local government-led and people-centered response” in the current rally against the pandemic. Door 3 ramps up the implementation of the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate strategies to abort early spread. Door 4 entails the strengthening of health and critical capacity systems to stall a surge to ensure proper and timely management and continuity of health services.
The Department of Health (DOH) on July 22, 2021, confirmed local transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant in some parts of the country. Three days after, 55 Delta cases were added to the 119, 37 of which were local cases and 17 were returrning Filipinos from abroad.
The health agency identified the cases with addresses in Calabarzon, Northen Mindanao, Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Davao Region and Ilocos Region. It can’t be said if the spike in cases are because transmissions have really become widespread or that it came from government’s increased resources for biosurveillance.
“Samples with more recent collection dates are those from areas with spikes were prioritized to determine the presence and spread of these variants in these areas,” the DOH said.
So far, the DOH 7 assured in its last report that no Delta case has been found yet in Central Visayas. The region’s new cases, though, are piling up in double digit daily.
The President gave an accounting of the created Covid laboratories spread all over the country, the proliferation of more temporary treatment and monitoring facilities. He warned that should the situation get worse, he might be compelled to enforce stricter measures.
Worth noting in the address is the President urging Congress to create disease prevention and virology agencies.
“We hope to puruse the creation of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines,” he said.
Credit for the developing character that he had become in the health crisis—from engaging the virus to a fistfight to a more sober push for legislation for agencies to address any future health crisis. He had at least shown an appreciation for the takeaways from this health crisis.
We join him in hoping for the institutionalization of anything that strengthens our health care capacity, especially for bio-emergencies.