Hontiveros to gov't: Rethink militaristic, police-centered strategy vs COVID-19

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Hontiveros to gov't: Rethink militaristic, police-centered strategy vs COVID-19
File photo from 2018 shows Senator Risa Hontiveros.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — After a series of record-breaking spikes in daily infections, Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday urged the government to revise its strategy against the deadly novel coronavirus disease.

"We need to rethink our militaristic and police-centered approach to the problem," Hontiveros said.

The senator added that "heightened medical visibility," is more necessary than heightened police visibility, saying "we need an army of health professionals" to combat the virus.

She further emphasized that increasing the amount of health workers can speed up contact tracing, testing and isolation.

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"We also need to ensure that every health worker is compensated justly and has access to personal protective equipment," Hontiveros added.

"We need to remind the government to treat the COVID-19 crisis as a health crisis...the numbers are alarming and clearly, we are not winning. We cannot mass arrest our way out of this health problem."

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Hontiveros' statement came after the country on Wednesday logged a total of 50,359 novel coronavirus cases with a record-high of 2,539 new infections.

This, only days after the previous record-breaking high of 2,434 on Sunday, and another 2,099 infectecions on Monday.

A researcher from the University of the Philippines on Tuesday warned that COVID-19 cases could breach 100,000 in the country by the end of August.

"Based on what I saw, the trend will increase even more, over 100,000 if we don't change our system and the way we handle the pandemic," mathematics professor Dr. Guido David, a member of the UP OCTA Research group told ABS-CBN in Filipino.

Guido added that his group's working model now predicts at least 65,000 infections in the country by the end of July.

This new figure forecasts at least 5,000 more cases than the UP research group's previous working model for the same month.

To curb the spike in cases, Guido recommended that the government tighten borders and isolate those who tested positive for the virus in facilities instead of making them undergo home quarantine which he called ineffective.

He also emphasized the need for more testing in the country.

'Expanded targeted testing'

Despite the COVID-19 task force's recent approval of a plan to boost testing in the country in the coming months, the Health department is racing against the clock just to achieve its more modest testing goals for the month.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in June said her department aims to test around 1.63 million Filipinos—about 1.5% of the population—by the end of July.

To achieve this goal, the government would have to almost double the number of tests it has conducted so far in less than a month.

Data from the Health department shows that only 823,372 Filipinos — about 0.75% of the population — have been tested as of July 7.

This is in stark contrast to the government's plan to test 10 million Filipinos — about 9% of the population — in the coming months.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque last week celebrated "beating" a forecast made by researchers from the University of the Philippines which estimated a total of 40,000 cases in the country by the end of June.

On June 30, the official Health department tally stood at around 38,000, with Roque claiming that only about 1,000 backlogged cases remained.

Sunday's tally alone saw 1,287 cases coming from the national backlog.

The Health department on Monday clarified that it still has backlogs of around 8,000 cases.





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