Philippine police, tasked to implement pandemic curbs, hits 10,000 coronavirus cases
This April 15, 2020 photo shows members of the Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield implementing quarantine measures.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

Philippine police, tasked to implement pandemic curbs, hits 10,000 coronavirus cases

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2021 - 9:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — The country's police force, whose role in carrying out pandemic-related curbs had largely been questioned as government militarizing its response to a health crisis, tallied a staggering 10,000 coronavirus cases within its ranks on Wednesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte put to task cops and soldiers to implement the hard COVID-19 lockdowns he ordered in March last year in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly virus that has gripped the nation hard to become Southeast Asia's second worst hit country.

The months that followed saw police figuring in a series of controversies, such as Quezon City cops shooting a retired military man in April and the widely criticized birthday bash of then Metro Manila police chief Debold Sinas, who, despite the incident and charges he is facing over it, was tapped by Duterte to lead the entire force.

By January 27, it would record 27 additional infections to bring its overall count to 10,001, with active cases at 590. Deaths among cops have since reached 28, while the number of those who have recovered are at 9,383.

The PNP has two testing laboratories in its headquarters in Camp Crame, and officials have attributed its high recovery rate to increased testing capacity.

Early this month, police leadership also rolled out a new quarantine rule within its ranks: that those caught without face mask and shield and were in contact with a colleague who contracted the virus would be brought to a quarantine facility, even when not yet tested.

Further, cops had also been told to keep a "close contact diary" with names of those they encounter, including the time, date and place. It remains unclear if the PNP would undertake changes in protocols to control the virus' transmission in the organization.

With the entire country still under the quarantine dubbed as the world's longest, the role given to state forces remains, but it had not escaped criticism from various groups on what they said is a militarized handling by the administration of a pandemic.

The said view is exacerbated with Duterte putting retired military officials at the helm of the coronavirus task force, especially efforts for vaccine purchase and distribution given to inoculation czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

Others sitting in the said body include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Social Welfare chief Rolando Bautista, all former military men.

Duterte has acknowledged the said criticism, but had sought to defend his choice, insisting on centralizing the "war" effort against the virus within the ex-military circle. By 2021, his administration faces hurdles in vaccination efforts, including the illegal inoculation of the smuggled Sinopharm to his security group.

In August 2020, doctors described the quarantine in the Philippines as "devoid of scientific sense and health purpose" and urged government to recalibrate its response. 

That speaks volumes now more than ever, with many restrictions eased since then and the country facing the threat of a more infectious variant of the COVID-19 which has now reached its shores. — with reports from Franco Luna

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