‘Scared to dying’

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2020 - 12:00am

The people in charge of communicating the seriousness of COVID-19 have done too much of a good job that people have become so scared of getting COVID-19 to the point of dying. Nothing wrong with my English here folks, it’s the best way I can express how so many people have become afraid of going to hospitals, clinics, laboratories or to see their doctors that it has reached a point where there is an alarming number of deaths now classified as “Quarantine Generated Mortalities.” QGM is the best way I could phrase it and several doctors belonging to the CDC-PH or Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines recently confirmed on the program AGENDA on Cignal TV that so many patients have stopped seeing their doctors or going to hospital for consultations or surgery because of COVID-19. As a result, many people have died from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other morbidities that could have been avoided.

In fairness to the Department of Health, they have recently been advertising on TV/radio to reassure the public that hospitals are disinfected and well maintained to prevent outbreaks. It’s a good first step but it is mild and sparse as advertisements go relative to the public fear and increasing number of quarantine generated mortalities as well as operational losses of hospitals and doctors. The amount of scary details of COVID cases and stats clearly overwhelms any positive messaging being generated by the DOH. Either the government dials down or modifies its communications or the DOH ramps up their positive campaign aggressively. The whole of government should be tapped to send out a flurry of aligned messages to promote public confidence to go to hospitals and see their doctors. The DOH should have solicited and enlisted the endorsement of public figures and celebrities as well as multiple media platforms and those on social media. No one would refuse to be part of such a campaign, especially since it is meant to save lives and prevent other illnesses from progressing and increasing. If Filipinos, especially the Millennials, can be counted on and tapped to promote Philippine tourism, there is no reason why they would not help to encourage their lolos, lolas, parents, titos  & titas to go and undergo that long postponed medical check-up or tests.

In the same interview of CDC-PH, doctors Iggy Agbayani and Homer Lim clarified that they are recommending the proper use of Hydroxychloroquine for treatment of mild or initial symptoms or signs of COVID-19. As we suspected all along, many doctors have been using the drug at the 200 mg to 400 mg dose with allegedly good results, rather than the excessive dosage used by so-called researchers testing the drug’s potential by over-dosing patients at 1,600 to 1,800 mg. In addition to using Hydroxychloroquine, the doctors shared that they prescribe Vitamin D, zinc, Vitamin C, E and Quercitin Complex, all meant to boost your immune system. The doctors believe that the government and the DOH should be promoting these simple products that are more affordable on a daily basis than paying huge amounts for COVID-19 testing, treatment or the ultimate price: your cremation.

The physicians also expressed their disapproval of the continued quarantine or lockdown because it is contrary to established quarantine practices that isolates the sick and not the healthy. They added that our experience with quarantine in the last seven months is that it created other problems such as suicides, mental illness, as well as an economic pandemic to boot. Come to think of it, we are already experiencing “The Second Wave” but it is not a second wave of COVID-19 cases, it is a second wave of quarantine  generated mortalities!

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In Tagalog we often say: “Pag gusto may paraan, pag ayaw maraming dahilan.” In English, where there’s a will there’s a way. Excuses abound for those opposed. Surprisingly, the Metro Manila Mayors Council have come up with so many reasons why we should continue on with General Community Quarantine status for Metro Manila. They claim that if we shift to MGCQ or Modified GCQ, the mayors can’t stop mass gathering, assemblies, movies and concerts. In other words, the risk of COVID-19 community transmission will be a likelihood. It is a fair and valid argument and it is understandable that the mayors would lean on what they think is a tried and tested method; containment and control through confinement of the population.

I, however, am opposed to a plain and simple continuation of GCQ because it simply sweeps away the ultimate need for LGUs, government and the citizenry to learn and live by a standard and system that constantly acknowledges the threat of COVID-19 but also makes Filipinos nationwide as pro-active fighters against COVID-19 under a system where we educate, equip and enlist people to be their own guardians and health marshals. Better to develop a system or programs that deals with monitoring people, particularly in public places, to insure they abide by health protocols, programs for continuing public information, programs for street by street cleanliness campaigns, contests and competition on creating the best anti-COVID work environment and practices. In other words, get the very people directly threatened by the virus to be part of the solution.

The other reason I am wary of unconditional extensions of quarantines is because it could go on forever because it is an easier but lazy solution. We still have polio, measles, mumps, dengue, AIDS, etc. That should be enough to remind us that COVID will also be here for a long time. Quarantines did not wipe out the virus, it simply slowed it down but at a very high price: QGMs and economic pandemic. Politicians should not decide and manage the problem; experts and physicians should.

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