Pandemic task force told to ‘level up’ its ‘reactive’ approach to Delta variant threat

Pandemic task force told to âlevel upâ its âreactiveâ approach to Delta variant threat
President Rodrigo Duterte holds a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on June 22, 2020.
Presidential Photo / Robinson Ninal

MANILA, Philippines — Two senators on Friday called on the government's pandemic task force to recalibrate its "reactive" approach to the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19. 

Local transmission of the Delta variant confirmed by the Department of Health last night caused the task force to abruptly tighten restrictions, amending quarantine classifications meant to stay until the end of the month for the second time in just seven days.

President Rodrigo Duterte also scheduled what he called an "emergency" meeting for Saturday night, two days after local transmission of the variant driving a surge in cases in neighboring countries was confirmed.

"[I]t is pathetic that our national health authorities are...being reactive instead of proactive," Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a statement. "Knowing the Delta variant has already gripped India and Indonesia, it seems they have not prepared adequately." 

He further scored the government's handling of two vessels that arrived in the country from Indonesia with 12 crew members positive for the virus, including one who snuck out from the boat and returned home. Indonesia has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia and is currently suffering from a new surge driven by the Delta variant despite its high vaccination rate. 

"It seems nothing has changed from early 2020, when our health officials failed miserably in the conduct of contact tracing on the fellow passengers of a Wuhan couple who traveled from Cebu to Dumaguete and Manila," Lacson said.

"Worse, [the] government refused to close our borders to travelers from Mainland China when we already knew that the first known COVID-19 patient came from Wuhan, China in December 2019." 

'Practical, science-based solutions needed'  

Sen. Nancy Binay in a separate statement called on the task force to "level up" its pandemic response by coming up with "practicable alternatives and science-based solutions." 

Binay reiterated that the country's genome sequencing capacity and vaccine rollout should be ramped up immediately to contain the spread of the Delta variant.  

"The things that should have been started and done last year, let's take them seriously," she also in Filipino. "What is the status of our contact tracing system? Clarify guidelines on border controls. If necessary, enhance and step up health protocols." 

"More than a year after, we are still here, still filling in the gaps at the fundamental level." 

— Bella Perez-Rubio 

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