The delay is suspicious
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2020 - 12:00am

Right from the start when hospitals and laboratories made Covid-19 testing available, I kept pushing for the Department of Health and Secretary Francisco Duque III to implement a price ceiling or price control on the cost of RT-PCR testing. In spite of the obvious and unjustified price differences, the DOH and Duque stayed mute on the matter. It took months before the DOH finally announced that they were studying the possibility of a price ceiling and that they would make recommendations to the IATF or the Office of the President. Many of us were so glad that the DOH was finally doing something about it that it never occurred to us that the DOH didn’t really need to make those recommendations since the department is the authority on the matter and the Secretary of Health, last I heard, was the head of the IATF. Be that as it may, the question now is where is the recommendation and to whom has it been submitted for approval?

Unless I missed something while the members of Congress were squabbling about the speakership, I have not heard, read or have been told about any recommendation or decision to fix the price of RT-PCR Covid-19 testing. Given that thousands of Filipinos need RT-PCR testing in order to start working or to travel or simply to have peace of mind, the continued delay or inaction on the part of the DOH, the IATF and Malacañang is almost criminal. It is bad enough that the government cannot give the test for free to anyone needing it, but when the government can’t act to curb the over pricing and predatory pricing for RT-PCR, then our national leaders deserve to be condemned for being laggards or deserve to be held with suspicion as protectors of hospitals and laboratories! It is of no expense to government to protect the public from being victimized twice; first by Covid and now by greedy medical facilities out to profit from people’s fear and needs! If you are on social media please join in pressuring Secretary Duque, the DOH and the IATF to rule on the matter because sooner or later you or someone you love or know will need to be tested for work, travel or medical concern.

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The recommendation of the Metro Manila mayors to expand the age group of people allowed outside of residence from 18 to 65 was clearly improved upon by the members of the Cabinet when they agreed to make it 15 to 65. This is a major step towards opening up the economy as well as slowly neutralizing the “Pandemic of Fear” that has taken root among Filipinos. By expanding the age group, more and more consumers will be out there to boost sales while many young adults between 18 and 20 will finally get to go out to earn a living for their families or to support their own. What remains to be seen is if authorities at the barangay level and the PNP will opt to silently monitor and regulate activities or will they once again assert themselves and tell people to stay home or limit their movements to essential travel only.

Those pronouncements are legitimate and valid but they will also serve to discourage people from going out as consumers, buyers or guests. As a result it will defeat the intention behind allowing 15 to 65-year-olds to go out. Malacañang and the IATF have to be clear about this or they will only end up stirring a pot of confusion and resentment among the people. This confirms the view of Cabinet members that more effort and money has to be spent on public information campaigns and reminding people to wear face masks, face shields, hand washing, wiping surfaces with alcohol and social distancing. I myself would appreciate a regular reminder through social media since I tend to be unawares or forgetful of wearing face masks when I’m at home or in the vegetable garden. I just returned from a lunch meeting at a small restaurant and I observed that everyone wears face masks before meals and after meals but in terms of safe social distancing, we really need to spell out how customers should be spread out. There would be a big difference between 1.5-meter separation but face to face versus 1.5-meter but alternate seating.

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I recently spoke with Dr. Mary Rose Teodoro-Chang, head of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at the Makati Medical Center, concerning the possible effects of the new normal in Philippine education that is online learning. With millions of school children now dependent on tablets and gadgets, the first thing that has gone up are not academic grades but the optical grade of children, granting that parents have even had their children tested in terms of vision or eyesight. The good doctor shared that alongside rising optical grades, a number of kids have manifested stress, eyestrain and discomfort.

For those of you currently managing learners at home, Dr. Teodoro-Chang gave the following suggestions: Observe proper posture when seating in front of monitors. Make sure that the screen of gadgets and tablets is at eye level and the screen is 18 to 24 inches away from the eyes (minumum). Adjust font sizes to what is comfortable to the viewer as well as brightness. Do not waste money on gimmicky anti-blue light glasses but instead, if needed, get a pair of eyeglasses for long term computer use. (I have a pair and so does my daughter.) Limit screen time, take breaks, observe the 20-20-20 rule of relaxation. Close one eye for 20 seconds then the other; focus on a distant object for 20 seconds to counter the short distance viewing strain. Relax or take a time out. Hope this helps!

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