Wise decision
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - April 22, 2020 - 12:00am

I think President Duterte was right in retaining Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in his current position at the Department of Health. I support this decision. It’s no secret that many in the Senate have called for his resignation recently and they do have valid points when it comes to shortcomings in how the DOH responded to the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic, but I don’t think now is the time to focus on that. Instead, it is better to demand more action from him and from everyone in the government working on fighting this battle.

I honestly don’t understand why Duque chose not to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible back when the pandemic first hit. As a close working partner to China, we knew about the potential danger way before March and we had the chance to better prepare early on instead of finding ourselves being reactionary again. But I guess, as they say, it’s useless to cry over spilled milk. We need to use these as teachable moments and do better in the future.

And that is what Sec. Duque must do moving forward. With the President backing him and telling him to “stay put” in his capacity, Duque now has the chance to do better moving forward. He has apologized publicly for his mistake – as he should – and he needs to focus on getting things done to create the systems we need in place should we ever want to emerge from this lockdown.

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) released a list of the countries that were hit the hardest in the wake of this pandemic. The United States ranked first,followed by Italy and Spain. The Philippines was among the top 20 as well. We may go up in the ranks as mass testing begins and more cases are discovered. There have been mistakes in so many places around the world – first world countries, and even within the WHO itself – so we can’t say that any mishandling is native just to us.

These are unprecedented times and we have never had to go through anything like this in our lifetimes. Hopefully, we are not just reacting, but are learning, growing and adapting. We need to be open-minded because we can’t compare this to anything that has ever come before. There is still so much to do and not a lot of time to do it. I truly don’t believe the lockdown will end by April 30 as the President initially said. There is no way we can control the virus in the next week and we should not look to run into the streets until we know it is safe to do so.

I’m honestly quite disturbed over the news in the United States of people flocking to the streets (most without masks) to protest the governors’ and mayors’ strict lockdowns in several states. It’s ridiculous to see them say that freedom is more important than life. Many claim that they need to “get a haircut” or “go back to work” and don’t care that people are dying – since “people die all the time”. It’s positively mind-boggling and a slap in the face of all the hardworking frontliners who are getting overwhelmed every day with COVID-19 cases. To see people not care about their sacrifices is ridiculous.

I believe that the US is going to see a very brutal second wave should Trump have his way and the lockdown is prematurely lifted. I can’t believe that he is inciting people to riot and cause chaos in their communities and belittling the situation. He cares more about trying to revive the economy than saving lives.

We are all going through hard times. It’s not unique to the US. But other parts of the world are trying to put importance on human life for now. The economy is also important, but we first need to ensure our safety. Then we can strive to revive the economy and the global financial systems together.

In the meantime, we all need to do what we can to flatten the curve and help stop the spread of the disease. We need to invest in science and medicine to help find a suitable and viable vaccine and treatment. We need to work together to survive because this enemy doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, or if you are from a first world country or a third world one. It will ravage us all just the same.

For now, these are the services and infrastructure in place we need to see before we can explore a staggered lifting of the lockdown. We need to adequately control transmission. We need to have a health system capacity in place to test, isolate, and treat. We need to ensure outbreaks are minimized in special settings such as nursing homes. We need to ensure the proper preventive measures are in place in businesses and schools. We need to be sure there are implementable protocols in place to address people bringing the virus in from other parts of the world. And finally, we need to ensure our communities are well informed and empowered to follow all the guidelines put in place.

We have a long road ahead and honestly until a vaccine and treatment/cure is discovered we can’t go back to “normal.” We’ll need to be careful, socially distant, and wary until then even if we can begin to go back to work and school.

Sec. Duque is being given a chance to make things right. We’re already here at this point. We can’t go back. We need to look ahead. I hope he uses this chance to do what must be done and protect the people. I hope the whole government does that because let’s face it, the DOH and Duque can’t do this alone.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DUTERTE FRANCISCO DUQUE III
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