Prepare and regroup
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2020 - 12:00am

Lockdowns alone will never be enough against the virus. We learned the first time that this blunt, broad instrument, whatever its virtues, will also pummel us mercilessly. Lockdowns only buy time to prepare and regroup. Even now, it’s meant to give the health system a reprieve. It’s never a binary choice.

There can be no substitute for the grunt work of directed solutions. We will continue to get high numbers if we who are confined to our homes don’t get access to systematic or targeted testing. Or, if we are tested, our contacts are not traced. Lockdowns reduce the risk outside your barangay. But inside, the infections inevitably spread if you don’t trace the contacts of those testing positive. This is how clusters bloom.

We mask, distance, wash and self-isolate. Government tests, traces and quarantines/isolates in facilities. Healthcare workers are the last line of defense. Others do what they can. The Judiciary took that bold step of voluntarily suspending court operations when our health workers cried for help.

Scale up. We now top the ASEAN in testing, according to testing czar Vince Dizon. We test an average of 25,000 to 30,000 daily. Our capacity, however, is more than thrice that. Before building even more testing laboratories, we ensure that the ones already standing are fully utilized. Makati City also piloted a project for pooled testing (10-20 samples in one test). We eagerly anticipate its impact on mass testing plans.

In tracing, we continue to lag behind neighbors. Two weeks ago, our corps was 66,000. Three days ago DOH Usec. Rosario Singh-Vergeire cited 77,000. The ideal is 136,000 for a 109-million population. Double time!! Millions are involved in this effort in Thailand. Tracing apps are used in the more advanced countries, rather than relying on phone calls and site visits. But threshold smartphone penetration to be effective is at least 60 percent of population. Right now, we aren’t even at 40 percent. The horror stories about digital apps and their effects on battery life, data privacy, interconnections, etc. are another matter.

Tracing czar Mayor Benjamin Magalong found that only 0.68 percent of LGUs surveyed have “relatively good” systems. If this evaluation already includes the 77,000 counted by the DOH, then we’re in trouble. Mayor Magalong’s radical transformation of our tracing ecosystem includes skills training, Geographic Information System (GIS) platform, link analysis tools and data collection tools. Done right, re-opening becomes viable again and lockdowns could be avoided.

Strategize. Targeted rather than broad brush, shotgun approach is the smarter choice, even below. Beginning this mECQ, DOH will be employing the Dharavi model (after Asia’s largest slum settlement in Mumbai), which successfully broke the chain of community transmission despite its wretched circumstances. Public-private partnerships are an integral part of this effort. This is a shift from hospital-based to community-based approaches.

They will focus on communities with high incidence of infection combined with inadequate facilities. Once again, the dreaded house-to-house search, with DILG and local operatives. 100 percent of households will have symptom checks. If with symptoms/history/contact, then the automatic swab test. Isolation of cases in quarantine facilities. Free feeding. Engagement of the community. Tracing target is up to 37 contacts per confirmed case. In Dharavi, that metric was only up to 24 contacts traced. Mayor Magalong found only eight contacts per positive traced in his LGU survey.

Recalibrate. When we constituted the teams to shepherd us through the pandemic, we were seeing only the shadows and outlines of the foe through the haze. Now the enemy is in plain sight and she is bigger than we imagined. This is the toughest challenge we will ever face. The government is right to recalibrate its response, which could include a platoon substitution of experts, if needed. We would be best served if we had on call the best and brightest, regardless of affiliation. If ever there was a time for unity and solidarity, this is that time.

Greenhouse. Enderun Colleges launched their new College of Architecture and Design with a webinar entitled “The Future of Architecture and Interior Design: Redesigning our Cities, Buildings and Homes.” Speakers were industry giants Arch. Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr., Arch. Angelo Mañosa, Idr. Chat Fores and Arch. Abelardo “Jojo” Tolentino. They will all be joining the college’s advisory board. Prof. Macky Maceda, Enderun’s Sustainability Director, moderated the webinar and shared the following key takeaways:

Arch. Palafox: Our overarching guidelines are: people first or social equity, then planet Earth for the environment. Then we can talk about prosperity, profit and economic goals, culture, history and heritage and inter-faith architecture. We think of the beneficiaries if we do a good job and we think of the sufferers if we do a poor job. We design and plan not only for our generation but future generations as well.

Arch. Mañosa: We look at the past designs of our forefathers. The bahay-kubo, the bahay-na-bato. What’s next for the future of Philippine architecture? How do we give continuity to the evolution of a culture as a people? How do we elevate a sense of pride in innovating Philippine design in a post-COVID world?

Idr. Fores: With interior design, we really have to adapt to the changes. It all comes down to function as well. We have to start adapting to things that cannot be touched. So you have to adapt to COVID and everything else that may come later on. Consider function before anything else.

Arch. Tolentino: Digital transformation is important. All of us should face the inevitable. If digitally-enabled, we can provide our expertise and our service anywhere in the world. We need to develop a growth mindset, that things evolve, and the practice also has to progress and the tools we use for the practice must also be comparable with what is done globally.

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