What about……
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2020 - 12:00am

Last Friday, I spoke with Dr. Edcel Salvana, the Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at UP Manila-National Institute of Health, concerning developments in the field of medicine and healthcare relative to the fight against COVID-19. Part of our conversation touched on how South Korea and Singapore have changed their rules on clearing people from quarantine and are beginning to implement time-based clearance rather than test-based clearance. Instead of releasing people because they have tested negative twice for COVID-19, those countries now require the 10-day quarantine or observation before you are released to the general population. Like most people I had to ask: If that is the case, how come the Philippines is now the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in South East Asia, considering we have been under various forms of lockdown for the last 4 1/2 months going on to 5 months. Now South Korea and Singapore claims all it takes is 10 days to render the virus defeated by a patient?

Dr. Salvana calmly but authoritatively pointed out that the reason for the continuing infections started with returning residents, then the hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including the thousands of cruise ship employees and seafarers who were being repatriated to the Philippines. We of course could not and will not keep fellow Filipinos out or prevent them from returning to the country. So our reunion came at the cost of exposure to the dreaded “pasalubong” named COVID-19. For those of you who find that hard to believe, just Google the stories and statements of all the governors and mayors who’ve been screaming about how their towns and provinces are no longer COVID-free because of returning OFWs and LSIs (locally stranded individuals).

In spite of this reality, I just thought of a way that the government and the Filipinos can work together to reset the fight against COVID-19, and if South Korea and Singapore are correct, we just might be able to improve the situation at a much smaller cost or price. The idea would be for the government to make a plan aligned with the 10- to 14-day lockdown or quarantine as shared by South Korea and Singapore. It can be a localized experiment or trial involving several barangays, it can be on a municipal level first and if it really works, then we can try it on a larger scale such as in small cities, etc. The strategy would be to choose the area, give the residents and businesses 15 days to prepare for a 15-day lockdown so they can save, work or borrow money to buy supplies. Ideally both local and national government should chip in and give each household enough food, water and medicines for 15 days. The test areas should be given relief or “no bills” assistance during the lockdown to ensure full cooperation.

Once that has been accomplished, finished or not finished stocking up, all the houses will be placed under absolute lockdown, including their pets such as cats and dogs, just in case they too are physical carriers. The government must be clear when lockdown starts and when it ends, no ifs, no buts. There must be absolutely no movement and no deliveries whatsoever. Then after 10 days, the DOH can send in teams to go house to house to swab test everyone without exemption. If the 10-day SK/Singapore time-based tests works, we will have enough time to even get the swab test results within the 15-day period.

We can’t wait for the vaccine because the economy will die, we don’t want too many deaths and any more prolonged quarantine, especially of the youth, that might trigger multiple cases of depression and suicides. If the government carefully and properly explains what the plan and strategy will be, if they make a firm commitment regarding providing all the necessary support and assistance, if people are allowed to prepare or stock up and if the government says: if we extend it beyond the deadline, you can all walk out of the testing area, the people will be more inclined to cooperate. Filipinos are NOT pasaway, they are law-abiding, but they have a reasonable expectation that government knows what they are doing, will have their well-being in mind and has integrity. The one thing Filipinos don’t want and don’t appreciate are unwelcomed surprises. That is why they are prone to panic buying, not because they are a greedy, materialistic horde, but because their first concern and responsibility is to provide for their families. They don’t violate restrictions claiming constitutional rights, they will tell you “Better to die of COVID than to die of hunger.”

So let’s put science and logic and cultural behavior on one petri dish and find out. The government needs to test and try. Don’t just say we can’t afford it. Rather say we can’t waste resources or throw money at things that don’t work. The government has been trying a buffet of solutions and ideas but not following a real plan. There is no vaccine; so chuck that out the window. ECQ worked for a while, so what went wrong? We opened the economy and people got infected. Now we use MECQ but again it’s a stopgap measure. If quarantine works then let’s invest all the money on a total quarantine instead of throwing money all over the place building facilities and renting places, etc! Step on the brakes now. Choose pilot sites, enlist public cooperation, save up, stock up and shut down. If it works, focus on that alone!

And this time allow Filipinos to be part of the plan. Let them prepare for the lockdown, not victimized by the lockdown.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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