Unite against coronavirus
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - August 6, 2020 - 12:00am

The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 213 countries and territories worldwide. The last pandemic figures I saw showed that there has been 18,475,859 cases, 6,075,343 active cases and 698,220 deaths.

In Europe there were fears of a resurgence  of COVID-19. Catalonia, a major region of Spain, returned to a form of lockdown. Barcelona, second largest city in Spain, is located there.  Britain announced that people arriving from Spain, including British tourists returning from the beach, should quarantine for 14 days. Other European countries – Romania, Croatia, Luxembourg and Germany – have dozens of new infections in a day, the highest count since March. Europeans believe they are much better prepared now than they were when the pandemic began.

It has always been difficult, if not impossible, to get accurate statistics in China. Recently, there was a report of a spike in cases in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, home of several million Muslim Uighurs who have been suffering severe persecution for their religious and cultural beliefs.

The latest report from South America is that it now has five million cases. Brazil is still ahead in number of cases. Brazil President Bolsonaro is reported to have been diagnosed positive three times, but he has refused to impose lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In the Philippines the latest development is the proposals submitted by the medical associations. Unfortunately this has become politicized. It is important that the nation should be unified in its fight against COVID-19; and that the efforts in this fight should be above politics.

I went through the six letters and the six proposals. Objectively, I did not view the letter as a request for a “timeout.” This may have come up in subsequent discussions; but there was no such mention in the letters itself.

In the letter, the doctors requested that six problems “be addressed urgently.” Let’s go through the problems quickly.

1. Hospital work deficiency – “Hospitals in NCR are getting overwhelmed by the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases these past weeks. The workforce is effectively reduced because of the need of intermittent quarantine of personnel and isolation of many who have fallen ill. In addition many have resigned because of fear, fatigue and poor working conditions. Facilities have to close because of these problems.”

I am sure this is a serious problem. The question is who is going to address this problem and how will this be addressed? I feel that it will take more than two weeks to be able to address this problem.

2. Failure of case finding and isolation – “RT-PCR is now being used for patients with symptoms. LGUs that do test continue to insist on use of rapid antibody tests to identify cases of COVID-19, sending home patients with symptoms who test negative. This may be responsible for the surge of cases we are now experiencing because rapid tests miss more than half of the people with active contagious illness. In addition, patients confirmed by RT-PCR are being turned away from isolation centers and forced to isolate in homes where this is not even possible.”

Companies have told me they resort to rapid test for employees because it is much cheaper and easier to access. Again, I do not see how this problem can be resolved in two weeks.

3. Failure of contact tracing and quarantine – I believe that the government is addressing this and has appointed the mayor of Baguio City to be in charge. Every article I have read on the pandemic says that the key to controlling it is TRACE, TEST, TREAT.

4. Transportation safety – “This problem cannot be addressed by long-term infrastructure plans. We need quick solutions with long-term effects, such as immediate implementation of service contracting, pop-up bicycle lanes and pedestrian lanes.

“We need the Department of Health and Department of Transportation to issue clear advisories both to transport providers and the commuting public on physical distancing, sufficient provisions for disinfectants or disinfectant protocols, wearing of face shields and masks and guidance on improving ventilation and air exchange (opening of windows).”

5. Workplace safety – “Workplace safety is assured in many high income settings, but there is clear failure for people with lower income. Employees and laborers are required by LGUs and their companies to have rapid antibody tests despite international agreement that this test is not recommended for work clearance and can lead to missed cases and local outbreaks. Employees and laborers are asked to shoulder the costs.

“Departments of Health, Trade and Industry and Labor and Employment should issue clear advisories to building managers and companies and the working public on physical distancing, sufficient provisions for disinfectants or disinfection protocols, wearing of face shields and masks and guidance on improving ventilation and air exchange...”

This recommendation can only succeed with government action and cooperation.

6. Public compliance with self protection – The progressive lifting of quarantine has sent a message to the public that the pandemic is getting better. It is not... The first line of defense is the public, so people need to be reminded that we need to use masks and face shields, wash hands and practice social distancing – now more than ever.

These six proposals deserve to be taken seriously. They are an appeal for help.

As I said, there are some that will take more than two weeks to implement.  It will take the government and the private sector, especially the medical community, working together to defeat this coronavirus.

An Invitation For Young Writers, ages 8-15:

Young Writers’ Hangoout is back! Zoom with us on Aug. 15 & 29, 2-3 p.m. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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