Alternatives to long ineffective lockdown

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2021 - 12:00am

Several readers have weighed in on my recent columns, some of them expressing impatience over the government’s response to the pandemic over the last 12 months. Our first reader, Felino C. Torrente Jr. of Batasan Hills, Commonwealth in Quezon City, has this to say:

“Allow me to share my thoughts on your March 23 column  (Acting on our own initiatives to survive this pandemic) and Feb. 23  (How resilient has our COVID-19 response been?) in the Philippine STAR.

“In your March 23 column, you asked whether the call for a two-week time out to curb the sudden spikes in COVID-19 infection cases will work? The measure refers to the so-called GCQ [general community quarantine] bubble covering Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan that requires the strict implementation of health protocols and granular lockdowns in barangays where infection cases are high.

“To a certain extent, the bubble may arrest the spike, but it is ineffective. The problem with our COVID-19 responders, including health experts -– both respected and self-styled, is that they do not bother to ask what measures were taken by their counterparts in nearby countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand and Thailand, to name a few.

“Our country could have adopted their best practices in fighting the disease knowing that these countries are considered the best in controlling the spread of the virus. During the early days of the pandemic, New Zealand was constantly consulting and monitoring the practices of other countries, and it appears, the Philippines did not. Instead, the Philippines appointed so many czars who wittingly or unwittingly believe they are infallible.

Rapid mass testing

“The better solution is rapid mass testing accompanied by aggressive contact tracing; that is, return to basics. Of late, 55 barangays in Pasay City were locked down because of very high incidence of infection. If this situation happened in Taiwan, Vietnam or China, the entire population of the city would have undergone testing, RT-PCR or whatever is available, at government expense. Those who test positive would be isolated and quarantined immediately with both board and lodging again charged to the government.

“In other countries, when there is a surge of infection, there are long lines of people waiting to be tested. An uptick in infection in the Philippines results in check points where motorists, and even those traveling by foot, form long lines to enter other places.

“And because other countries were successful in fighting COVID-19 by mass testing and aggressive contact tracing, they are not even enthusiastic about vaccination. Taiwan, for example, has just commenced vaccination this week with a mere 117,000 doses of AstraZeneca for its health workers. New Zealand will start its vaccination program in the third quarter of 2021. Vietnam, with only 2,500 cases and 35 deaths, launched vaccination last March 8 with 117,600 doses of AstraZeneca, and has its own vaccine under trial. Thailand, with 27,800 cases and 91 deaths, recently began vaccinating its health workers with 117,000 doses of AstraZeneca and 200,000 doses of Sinovac.

“It is doubtful, however, if the Philippines will shift to testing and contact tracing, the very basic means to combat the infection. It has practically delegated the testing work to private laboratories and the people pay for the tests. And if it is given without cost to individuals, PhilHealth reimburses the testing laboratories, but PhilHealth can hardly pay. Ask the Red Cross or Sen. Dick Gordon.

“As to the free board and lodging for the infected persons under quarantine, the Filipinos may be asking for the moon from their government. As of now, everyone avoids the test or quarantine because they cannot afford them. In the meantime, the people can only keep their fingers crossed in the face of unmitigated surge in infection.”

Free washable face masks

Another reader, Rene Moral, has another suggestion: “Government has to distribute free washable face masks, especially to the congested communities through the barangays.

“Next to staying home, this is the most effective way of preventing the virus from spreading and making people sick while we are waiting for the vaccines to arrive.

“And this won’t cost the government (national and local) so much. The benefits clearly outweigh the cost.”

Ivermectin debate

Our third and last featured reader, Manuel E. Enicola, Jr., who is a financial adviser by profession, raises his views about a globally controversial treatment among practicing doctors involving the use of human-grade ivermectin to fight the coronavirus. Please read on.

“I am quite saddened that our local FDA [Food and Drug Administration] claimed that ivermectin is not effective and/or has no significant effect on COVID-19, and has even prohibited its use under stiff penalties.

“Any person with basic surfing skills can easily scour the internet and prove it otherwise. To date, 72 studies confirmed ivermectin’s efficacy against COVID-19. (https://c19ivermectin.com, https://covid19criticalcare.com, https://swprs.org/who-preliminary-review-confirms-ivermectin-effectiveness, https://covid.us.org/ivermectin)

“Because of this, the US National Institutes of Health have changed their position on ivermectin from recommending against, to a neutral position as of Jan. 14, 2021. (https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/antiviral-therapy/ivermectin)

“Now here’s a peculiar case: Peru. When mass treatments with ivermectin was implemented, there was a 14-fold reduction in nationwide excess deaths from August through November 2020. But when the new president restricted ivermectin use, a 13-fold increase followed. (https://osf.io/9egh4)

“I sincerely hope that our government officials would take a second look at ivermectin as a treatment and prophylaxis for COVID-19. And may your column help in calling their attention to this safe, wonderful, and cheap drug.”

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25thFloor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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