DR. Edsel Maurice Salvana, an expert and consultant of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-RID), wrote in his Manila Bulletin column last Aug. 10, 2021: “Despite the President’s directives, Cebu remained in favor of their less stringent protocols. Some IATF-EID and Technical Advisory Group members including myself went to Cebu at the end of June and presented the threat of Delta to the Cebu Provincial Board. We warned that if Delta got into Cebu due to lax border control, a bad surge was forthcoming. Delta is now in Cebu causing a large spike in cases, overwhelming their health care system.”

Salvana added that “some of the Delta outbreaks in Mindanao have been linked through whole genome analysis to returning Filipinos who entered through the Cebu airport. While it might have been impossible to completely stop Delta from coming in, it could have been further slowed down.”

This statement made Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia blow her top. “Mi-ulbo ang kaspa” ni Gov. Garcia. (Note: This is just an idiomatic expression of a person who expresses “violent reaction” to an issue).

And this is the reaction of Governor Garcia to Salvana’s opinion: “So, how dare you blame Cebu. You better back up your statement with your data because we have our own data to refute you. Next time, Dr. Salvana, be mindful of your statement. You consider yourself an expert. Well, you’ve been around, haven’t you? For over a year, have you been able to come up with a clear road map on how to deal with Covid-19? Or that you seem to have been dancing the Sinulog? Two steps forward, one step backward.”

Salvana, in his column, was referring to their visit here as part of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s delegation upon the invitation of Governor Garcia to listen to their side about the controversy on the Provincial Government’s swab-upon-arrival policy and another swab on the seventh day for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROF), which run counter to IATF guidelines. I don’t know if Duque’s Delegation, including Salvana, stayed here overnight or for a few days to observe and get a complete grasp of what was going on and the Covid response adopted by the Provincial Government.

Covid-19 cases during that time were not yet so “alarming” compared to the present situation. But did they bother to investigate and double-check the real status of the Province’s Covid response? Or did those IATF experts, including Salvana, just jump to their one-sided conclusion because the IATF recommendation was not followed here to the letter? They felt insulted that a local chief executive (referring to Gwen), who has no medical background, was refusing to implement their order.

Was Salvana’s observation backed up by data and statistics? Why only blame Cebu when there is also a surge in the National Capital Region (NCR), which continues up to now? That is why they placed the entire NCR under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Did they blame the national government for its laxity in border control? Did they blame the Ninoy Aquino International Airport management also for its laxity on arriving OFWs and ROFs, who have been blamed for spreading the Delta variant all over the country?

If they adopted the strict policy for arriving OFWs and ROFs like swabbing on the seventh day and quarantine for 14 days, why did the Delta variant still spread all over the country?

If these people are really experts in the field of medicine, why is the Delta variant “killing us softly”?

The virus could have been eliminated immediately if they are experts and good advisers. Will the ECQ status in NCR help contain the virus? Let us see after Aug. 20. Maybe the IATF will recommend a longer lockdown?

The latest quarantine status of the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu is still under modified ECQ, while Cebu Province is still under general community quarantine until Aug. 31. If the situation in Cebu Province is somewhat “alarming,” as what Salvana described, why did the IATF not recommend placing the entire province under ECQ?

I think we have to stop playing the blame game and finger-pointing. That will not help solve this pandemic. We have one common enemy and that is Covid 19. So we better focus on our real target.

* * * * *

Before, when we experienced a cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat or sneezing, we didn’t worry. These were just ordinary illnesses. But now, it’s Covid-19. Worse, it’s the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus.

The Delta variant of Covid-19 can have symptoms that are mild and typically not associated with the virus that some may mistake for an allergy or another common sickness.

Louisiana State Health Officer Joe Kanter said the Delta variant of Covid-19 still has its usual symptoms like cough, fever and shortness of breath. However, Kanter is seeing many patients with symptoms that appear to be run-of-the mill illnesses like sinus congestion, runny nose and sore throat. These symptoms could be signs that the patient has the Delta variant.

If this is the case, we can only surmise that this Covid thing has been existing since time immemorial. Busa ayaw gyud mog ubo-ubo diha kay Covid na na. Ayaw nang ubo, i-igham lang.