Asymptomatic carriers are the ‘silent spreaders’ of COVID-19
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2020 - 12:00am

The objective for all of us right now is to stop the virus, not just the spread of the virus. But how can we stop it if we do not know where the enemy hides?

The Department of Health will always want to show the best of its work. City mayors will also want to show their management prowess. Malacañang will be forced to rely on all the data given to them. So, who discerns?

While many country’s COVID-19 statistics are going down, ours is going higher and higher each day. What is happening? We seem to be going toward a bleak future.

The biggest mistake is the lack of foresight our leaders have in trying to fight the virus. Instead of distributing all the money, they should have divided it and apportioned half to buying COVID-19 Test Kits. It’s definitely not too late. If there’s a will, there’s a way!

The DOH idea of not using locally made test kits is ridiculous and bothersome. In times of a crisis you cannot afford to be too fastidious. There are advantages and disadvantages to it.

By the way, the Department of Trade and Industry should start controlling the cost of Covid-related products from test kits, PPEs, face masks, alcohol, etc.

So, when can we start flattening the curve? To this day, there is no mandated or required community testing. Last week when Metro Manila shifted to General Community Quarantine (GCQ), only a few companies or institutions imposed rapid testing before allowing employees to enter the workplace.

Why is testing important? Many of us may be “asymptomatic”. This means that a person has been infected by the virus but does not feel sick nor manifest any Covid symptoms. Asymptomatic people can spread the virus in many ways – through spitting, coughing, and sneezing. Infection can also be passed on through direct contact with others or by contaminating surfaces and objects. Jing-Fu Qiu, PhD, of Chongqing Medical University, and his colleagues characterized asymptomatic carriers as the “silent spreaders” of COVID-19.

Many asymptomatic cases have acquired the virus from being exposed to a Covid positive case, touching contaminated items in the grocery stores or public areas and vehicles, etc. If a barangay does mass testing, it will right away know who among the residents are COVID-19 positive and negative. With such data, the problem can be easily addressed thus, stopping the virus from spreading. If no mass testing is done, the enemy will continue to hide in us.

As of the second week of June, Quezon City reported 2,605 COVID-19 cases, with 947 considered active. Barangay Batasan Hills had the greatest number of cases at 117 followed by Barangay Culiat with 114 cases. The city government also placed Sitio Militar in Barangay Toro, Calle 29 in Libis and Kaingin Bukid in Apolonio Samson under a 14-day special concern lockdown due to high number of COVID-19 cases in the area.

As Metro Manila shifted to GCQ, the implementation of barangay lockdowns has been made even more aggressive with still many positive cases and new cases in the NCR recorded. Purok 5 and 6 of Lower Bicutan in Taguig City has been placed under ECQ starting June 17 until July 1 due to confirmed cases in the area. Of course, we all know that Cebu City was reverted to the strictest ECQ due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases that is bound to overwhelm the city’s health care capacity.

Mum’s the word! No one wants to admit they have COVID-19 positive cases. But this is the wrong mindset. We need to bring all these cases out in the open to help resolve the pandemic. If we continue to ignore the problem and just report the number of cases rising without attacking the enemy, then we are doomed.

It has been almost four months now and many of us have not been tested at all. Have you been tested? How do you know you are Covid-free? When those required to take the test (by their companies) went through the process, there was an initial feeling of fear and anxiety into knowing the “unknown”. Those who thought they were negative, turned out to be positive and after another test, continued to be positive. Denial would always be the first reaction but later, when left with no choice but to accept the fate, a strong sense of courage will take over in order to confront and resolve the problem.

For a positive asymptomatic case, what happens next? There are 2 choices. First, you can stay home but quarantine yourself inside a room where no one will enter but yourself. You must follow all COVID-19 protocols. Second, you can stay in a quarantine facility (provided by your company, rent or look for one offered by the barangay/ city). After 14 days of observation, another test should be done until you get a negative result. Once you turn from a positive to a negative, you have won the battle and killed the enemy in you. Unless you did not isolate or follow quarantine rules, you could have spread the virus to others again. The vicious cycle continues if one is irresponsible and just continues to spread the virus.

If you are tested you will know if you have the virus or not. Imagine how many asymptomatic cases are out there roaming around unmindful that they are carriers of the virus (asymptomatic). Yes, many must realize that the virus easily spreads through the people who are asymptomatic. They walk around town and even converse with family, officemates and friends not knowing they are asymptomatic. Once the virus from their system is transmitted to another person whose immune system is very weak then a new case, possible a deadly one is born.

We can help stop the virus and prevent it from spreading by getting tested. And if found to be carriers of the virus, we can do the right thing by following the COVID-19 protocols. Every COVID-19 asymptomatic person has a responsibility toward others. But how will they know this when they have not taken the test?

Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez was right when he criticized the national government for its carelessness in the implementation of the Balik Probinsya program sometime in May. No one seemed to listen to him. He feared for his constituents. Ormoc then was a Covid-free locality. But since he was helpless and had to obey, the enemy in the form of the virus gained entrance to the city. To date, there are 200 cases in Ormoc all originating from Metro Manila and Cebu.

Let us take the case of Ifugao province. They’ve had 2 cases only, and both came from the outside. If they totally close their gates to outsiders right now, they can live a normal life. Parents can continue working and children can continue going to school with no threat of any invaders (aka virus).

In Macau, the government is very strict. No one can enter Macau. Overseas travel is still banned. Only residents can enter. Upon entry, they follow very strict protocols before they mainstream. The economy is starting to move because people are able to walk in the streets, work and go to school without the fear of the virus attacking them. So far, there is no virus in Macau.

In our country, we continue to allow international flights. Clearly, we cannot handle the influx of travelers coming in. Perhaps we can hold all international visitors first and stagger the return of OFWs. Those coming from hotspots are likely to bring in gazillions of viruses into the country. The government must be very strict in implementing a clear system along COVID-19 protocols.

Remember the enemy may be present in each of us. We must get tested. Think about it!

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