‘Granular’ approach on lockdowns
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 25, 2020 - 12:00am

More likely than not, another wave of speculations on whether or not there would be a fourth round of extension on the lockdown will surface. Currently, various parts of the country are under varying degrees of community quarantine to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease 2019, or C19 for short.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) in charge of quarantine guidelines is expected to review anew the lockdown areas in their regular meeting today at Malacañang. After the IATF meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to deliver his address to the Filipino people usually aired late nights over state-owned PTV-4. 

The third extension of lockdown is due to lapse this May 31. After the month-long lockdown in the entire Luzon provinces that started last March 15, the IATF has been doing14-day quarantine period review. In the latest IATF review, areas were reclassified into three categories of lockdown depending on the risks of resurgence of the C19 contagion. 

The cities of Cebu and Mandaue, both in the province of Cebu, remain under stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) being classified as “high-risk” areas. The entire Metro Manila, Angeles City (Pampanga), and six other provinces in Luzon classified as “transitioning high-risk” areas were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). 

The other parts of the country, not identified in the same IATF Resolution, have been classified “low-risk” areas that were downgraded to general community quarantine (GCQ). The IATF came up with these new categories after several local government units (LGUs) appealed for the retention of lockdown for fear of a resurgence of C19 contagion in their areas. 

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III, as chairman of the IATF, apparently could not agree more. Duque believes the Philippines remains vulnerable to possible spike again of the C19 infection. Quoting epidimeologists and medical experts of the DOH, Duque cited the country is, in fact, already on the second wave of the C19 contagion. 

In the process, Duque got himself into another round of tirades from Senators and administration critics over this assertion he made before the Senate committee of the whole virtual hearing last week. They argued the “second wave” comes in only after there was already the so-called “flattening of the curve,” or sustained decline of C19 cases.

At the outset, Duque clearly stated the point of reckoning of the DOH on the “first wave” came from the three Chinese nationals who came here infected with C19 last January. It was not until March when the country started to record cases of local community transmissions of C19 infection. Since there were no cases yet reported in February, the graph consequently showed the rise of the curve by March. In between these months, there was “flattening of the curve” when plotted in the graph.

“There are those who agree with you and those who vehemently disagree with you…I will listen to the conflicting claims. But in the end, it is the Secretary of Health who decides. His – your word is the law here because we are not,” President Duterte declared this at the IATF meeting with Duque last May 4. It was a few days after 14 Senators signed a Resolution calling for the DOH Secretary to resign for his perceived mis-handling of the public health crisis on C19 pandemic.

Obviously differing from the point of timelines, it is pointless to belabor whether our country is in the second, or even third wave already of the C19 pandemic.       

But this has set the tone for the adoption of “localized” lockdowns henceforth as announced already last week by the National Task Force chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. Concurrently the presidential adviser on the peace process, Galvez disclosed the government is undertaking a “granular approach” to prevent the resurgence of the contagion all around the country while “ramping up” medical and health facilities to “test, trace and treat” C19-infected people.

“Granular” is noticeably the newest favorite buzzword of our Philippine government officials.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “granular” as consisting, or appearing to consist of granules – small particles, especially one of the numerous particles forming a larger unit – an adjective meaning finely detailed. From the root word “granule” that is synonymous to scientific terms atom, molecule, particle; or, equivalent to bit, crumb, morsel, speck, among them. 

The first time I’ve heard it was from Duque last Feb.14. “Blindspots here continue to characterize this virus and the efforts to familiarize ourselves with this virus is ongoing. Science has never been more active than it is today precisely to continue to characterize the very granular aspects of this virus,” Duque explained. It was during a press briefing at Malacañang while the World Health Organization (WHO) still referred to this flu-like disease first traced in Wuhan, China as “novel coronavirus,” or nCoV-19.  

Duque used again the same word a few days later when he replied to a reporter’s query on Filipino seamen tested positive on C19-infection: “I don’t have the very granular details, so we will just have to wait.”  

Lately it is being mouthed by others like Galvez to describe the upcoming new IATF quarantine plans. “We are seeing a good option to have what we call as ‘granular approach’ or selective approach or surgical approach,” Galvez announced during the “Laging Handa” virtual presser at Malacañang last May 22.         

Galvez explained the new local zoning system of lockdown: “We are doing at present is what we call granular analysis and we saw that our next approach as a better way of doing it by clusters.” 

From science-based and medical data to contain the C19 contagion, Galvez promises us “granular approach” on lockdowns dashed with military tactics and strategy. Such “granular approach” should hopefully cause the least economic dislocation but produce the safest methods to protect Filipinos from themselves once lockdowns are eventually lifted.

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