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Opinion

’Tis darkest before…..

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

They say “it is often darkest before the light” but given the recent detection of the COVID virus Delta variant, that saying might end up being “it is often darkest before it goes totally black.” I am both sad and relieved to be proven right when I started calling government officials’ attention to the possibility of the Delta variant entering the Philippines not just through our airports but through the backdoor called Southern Philippines, where people regularly take really fast boats to parts of Indonesia and Malaysia and back.

After announcing the detection of the Delta variant in Region 10 and Region 6, the next question is to determine just how big the real number of infections is while implementing what the government claims is a contingency plan that was supposedly being worked out a week or two ago by a 3-man panel in anticipation of the variant’s arrival or detection.

Perhaps now, the persons holding the government’s purse strings as well as our legislators will finally agree or realize the wisdom in giving a ton of money to the Philippine Genome Center and all other government facilities that can do the job of detecting and determining viruses and variants, so that government officials and health workers can sensibly protect the public once they know what they are up against. Let’s not wait for some bureaucrat, cabinet secretary or a public outcry to realize that we needed a well funded, well-equipped Genome Center last year!!! Late as it may be, let us not kid ourselves into thinking that the COVID pandemic is going to be gone by the end of the year or even at the end of 2022. The virus creates variants faster than scientists are able to upgrade and develop better COVID vaccines, so let’s concentrate on giving our scientists and physicians all the money they need because if we don’t, we ourselves cannot look forward to a more predictable situation and better economy.

There is no doubt in my mind that this unfortunate situation will put many institutions and action plans of government to the test. The Bureau of Immigration, the PNP-Coast Guard will surely have to do more than double up their border control and regulation of maritime vessels and sea craft after which all regional DOH offices and facilities will have to screen and quarantine anybody and everybody coming in from neighboring islands, etc. Call it paranoia or “over acting” if you wish, it is something preferable over 5-digit or thousands of daily cases, hospital collapses and zombie town scenarios. 110 countries reportedly have the Delta variant and it is singularly wreaking havoc on communities and nations with no exemption. In our part of the world only the toughest health protocols and controls have allowed public officials to manage the infections but in countries where people or government relaxed or hesitated, they paid the price with a human catastrophe.

Aside from the almost paranoid regulation and restrictions demanded of a Delta variant concern, the Duterte administration and all its officials should put a stop to all their political bickering with competitors, enemies or critics and concentrate all their energies into public information campaigns through all available means. So many people in the Philippines are ignorant of how serious and deadly the Delta variant is and they are equally ignorant of the urgent need to be vaccinated. I have heard some government officials saying that if there is a community outbreak they will go street-by-street or house-to-house if necessary and lockdown.

During every campaign and election, all barangay officials and candidates use every means possible to campaign, including the garbage trucks blaring jingles of mayors, etc. Why not against COVID? We are not living in the ’60s where everything was plain mechanical and limited. Every barangay can place a freezer, small generator, dry ice loudspeaker and computers on a truck followed by health workers so they can vaccinate people house to house. Yes, it is tedious but remember the saying, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.” If mega vaccine sites don’t work or attract a certain group, then change the strategy.

Speaking of strategies, this leads us to the bizarre decision of the Duterte administration to ease up on restrictions in spite of all the warnings from the World Health Organization. One whole week of reports from all over the world that cases have once again gone up, many as a result of relaxed restrictions, as well as observations from local health experts that we are not out of the woods from the last surge. Everybody wants to get a break, I personally appreciate the attempt of the government to relax the situation, but the severity of the situation demands that we all bite the bullet and make the hard sacrifices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and any of its variants.

It is suspected by some that the relaxation of restrictions are all related to creating a positive atmosphere going into the State of the Nation Address as well as the start of the 2022 elections where certain administration hopefuls need to get good ratings in upcoming surveys. All this, however, is too much of a gamble for any political strategist, given the possibility that if Delta variant – GOD FORBID – spreads in the country, there will be no turning back. The only rating we will all be hounded by will be the COVID-19 Positivity rating nationwide and the daily death toll! No politician will ever recover from causing that.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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