‘Bring one, get one’

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

“You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but sometimes it helps.”

In this time of COVID-19, many mayors will probably agree with that poster quote, especially when they have to deal with different departments, agencies and Cabinet personalities acting like they are the President. On other occasions, what drives mayors crazy is the National Government insisting on policies that don’t work on the ground. However, once in a while crazy ideas that defy the system pop up and surprise even the “Crazy Person” who thought of it.

Take for instance Mayor Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban who was informed by the DOH and IATF that he will be receiving 10,000 doses of vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. Instead of simply receiving the vaccines, Mayor Romualdez asked the health officials to trust him on a plan he had to increase vaccinations. People who fall under the A4 and A5 category, workers and poor individuals would be given first priority, get to go to the front of the line IF they bring with them one senior citizen or a person with disability (PWD).

The health officials agreed to go along and yesterday mid-morning, Mayor Romualdez himself was shocked by the number of people who showed up with their Lolo, Lola, elderly neighbor or relative PWD. Romualdez even told about rich people he knew, who brought their elderly domestic helpers, some who were in wheelchairs and the like.

Clearly, many people simply don’t want to waste their time away from work or business with no guarantee that they will be vaccinated. This happened to our 29-year-old A4 neighbor and his friend who took a day off from work, lined up at the local vaccination center in SM Lipa City from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and when they reached the counter, they were informed that they were assigned to get Sinovac vaccine but the only available was Pfizer so they would have to come back another day. They lost P500 for a day off from work that amounted to nothing.

The second problem is that there is a serious lack of communication between the vaccinators and the people who are supposed to be scheduled or return when supplies are available. DILG Secretary Año needs to seriously have this studied and improved on because sometimes, it is not hesitancy but people being unaware or misinformed. In the first place, if people are not supposed to be choosy about vaccine brands, then why are the vaccinators choosing who gets what brands? That is certainly discriminatory, if not illegal.

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Speaking of “crazy,” the story goes that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” The story is claimed to be more of a figure of speech depicting the indifference and incompetence of Emperor Nero, although some accounts claim that Nero was suspected of having ordered the arson after he cleared the area of the fire and used it to build some “Garden of Pleasure.”

As I watched several evening news programs, I was reminded of the Nero story, given the fact that a number of national leaders busied themselves playing politics not fiddles while raiding and taking over a political party. As President Duterte and his party mates were busy staging a coup d’état and kicked out Senator Manny Pacquiao from the PDP-Laban last weekend, reports came out that there were 16 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in the country, three of whom have died.

On the same day, the President visited the new airport terminal at Clark Airport that they claimed was the first “contactless terminal” and used that as an opportunity to yet again brag about their “Build Build Build” flagship program, perhaps unaware of the Delta variant news flash. As if to distract people’s attention yet again, the controversial multimillion-peso Dolomite Beach Club was conditionally reopened to the public that was given five-minute walking privilege on the fake sand while the DOH and the IATF were busy trying to contain the potential spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant in NCR, Region 6 and Region 10. It is this political fiddling that leaves many governors and mayors angry and at a loss on how best to deal with the potential plague that is the Delta variant.

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As far as the national government is concerned, the best thing they can do at this point is to follow the example and decision of other global leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, who declared that people who are not vaccinated will be refused entry into certain establishments where people gather, dine or congregate such as restaurants, churches, etc. You are either fully vaccinated and show your card or show a recent RT-PCR test.

The decision to use the “stick” and no longer the “carrot” comes from the realization that all the discounts, incentives and prizes offered to entice people to be vaccinated have failed. When the French president made the announcement, the application for vaccinations reportedly surged faster than the virus!

President Duterte should once again show his political will of old and follow what President Macron did. Unvaccinated people should not be allowed to restaurants, malls and groceries. Go back to the one person per household pass system for those who remain unvaccinated. No vaccination – no employment. Harsh? Yes it’s harsh, but when we are all following the rules and trying to help fight the spread of COVID-19, those who drag their feet or refuse to cooperate should realize that there is a price for non-cooperation.

On the other hand, it takes two to tango and the President has to make sure that sufficient vaccines are available, anyone willing to be vaccinated should be jabbed and that someone is checking in on local government officials, particularly health officials and barangay captains, if they are getting the word out.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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