Health workers: Use second lockdown to rethink pandemic response
Police officers inspect passing two-wheel and four-wheel vehicles and issue tickets to non-Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR) motorists plying EDSA in Pasay City on Monday night, March 22, 2021.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

Health workers: Use second lockdown to rethink pandemic response

(Philstar.com) - March 28, 2021 - 11:25am

MANILA, Philippines — Government should take the week-long return of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to implement systemic changes in pandemic response, a group of health workers said on Saturday.

The capital region, along with Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan will go back to the strictest form of quarantine status on Monday, March 29 as the country continues to report record-high daily infections. 

The health department has recorded daily case increases above 9,000 in the past two days that pushed the overall count to 712,442, with active cases at 118,122.

"We have been talking for a year," the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 said in a statement in Filipino. "It is time to rethink our strategy. We hope it will not get to a point where health workers will have to choose between who to save or who will die because that will be painful for us."

HPAAC comprises more than 160 professional societies of healthcare workers.

The return to ECQ, the tightest quarantine classification, has brought up parallels with the situation last year, when Luzon went into lockdown. The Duterte administration has long been criticized for militarizing its to a health crisis, with retired generals sitting at the helm of the coronavirus task force and an emphasis on arrests and enforcement.

The group reiterated a call made on March 22 to expand the One Hospital Command Center to an entire referral network and that will also share data for an integrated response.

HPAAC said that with an ongoing surge of patient admissions in hospitals, an improved referral system can help determine who should stay at home for monitoring or those in need of immediate medical attention.

FROM 2020: Medical workers call for better primary care, community response as 'time-out' ends

"Even if that is just one patient that we can't treat to or give the right support, this is already a symptom that there is something wrong with the system," said Dr. Pauline Convocar, president of the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine and who read the group's statement.

"We hope this is corrected as soon as possible."

Transportation, financial aid

Public transportation will continue to operate, although at reduced capacity. An 11-hour curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. will also be in place. 

The health professionals' group said government should ensure that workers in essential industries will have transportation to get to and from work. It stressed too that bike lanes should be put up for health care and essential workers.

RELATED: Whatever happened to: Metro Manila bike lanes

"There will be many whose livelihood will surely be affected from the new restrictions," HPAAC also said. "Our appeal to the economic managers is to ensure that vulnerable populations will receive the right subsidy to make sure that no one will go hungry at this time."

The Palace said Saturday that there will be assistance for those affected, but said guidelines for that and for other aspects of the ECQ will be announced Monday, or on the day that the restrictions will take effect.

"Let us not waste any more time," HPAAC said. "We hope government uses this second 'timeout' to immediately implement systemic changes needed to protect our people. We should no longer go back to how we were before."

On the surge, and extending ECQ 

Speaking at the HPAAC briefing Saturday night, infectious diseases expert Dr. Anna Ong-Lim said the increase in COVID-19 cases can no longer be blamed on just the public's failure to follow protocols. 

"The surge is multifactorial," she said, partly in Filipino. "Because if we look at it it's not only now that people had been lax and yet we saw the numbers spiking. So I would say, first is consistency in compliance, additional transmisibility and the reopening of the economy."

Asked if a week of ECQ in Metro Manila would work, she said it could still be extended if the goal of controlling the increase is not achieved. 

"Our hope is for these measures to work properly so we don't have to extend beyond one week, but the actual wording is a 'minimum of one week,' so that should tell us that the possibility is there," Lim added.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with