Urgent: Effective government pandemic response

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - February 13, 2021 - 12:00am

Allow us first to greet you all a belated Kung Hei Fat Choi and advance Happy Valentine’s Day! With a whole new year ahead and with love, what more do we need to forge ahead?

Oh, much more will be the answer of millions!

During this pandemic, most likely, top on the list of wishes will be protection from the virus, good health, and life, please!

Also, protection from hunger, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, among others, please.

For respondents of a recent ASEAN survey, better and more effective pandemic response and governance, please.

The State of Southeast Asia 2021 survey report newly released by the ASEAN Studies Center noted that “the Philippine government’s pandemic response received the highest disapproval among member states of the ASEAN.”

Filipino respondents gave the Philippine government’s pandemic response a disapproval rating of 56.7% (35.8 percent disapprove, 17.9 strongly disapprove).

The Filipino respondents (6.5% of 1,032 survey participants), who came from “academic, think tank or research institutions, followed by those in the government, business or finance, civil society or media and regional or international organizations,” suggested that “more scientists and medical doctors contribute to public policy (72.2 percent) followed by investing in early warning systems for pandemic outbreak (58.3 percent), offering better financial relief and subsidies to citizens affected by the pandemic (33.3 percent), ensuring that politicians and public servants observe health protocols (30.6 percent) and implementing public health measures such as mask wearing and social distancing (5.6 percent).”

Singapore and Vietnam were ranked as having the best leadership during the pandemic.

On the local front, the pandemic has shown different pandemic governance patterns throughout cities and provinces in the Philippines. How local governments have responded to protecting constituents through containing the virus, including vaccination preparation and policy, can be measured in terms of promptness, comprehensiveness, stakeholders’ protection and welfare, among other measures. Perhaps, independence and self-reliance can be added to the list.

If a public survey were made to assess the pandemic governance of Cebu Province and the various cities of Cebu, what do you think will be the output?

There is growing concern that Cebu City may once again revert to last year’s July status of being the country’s epicenter. Remember when the city’s pandemic governance was taken over by the IATF, with tanks and all?

Gratefully, the virus was contained, with the laudable collaboration of several sectors, the barangays, most especially. Sadly, the containment process wasn’t sustained.

Thursday, Cebu City was reported to have recorded 249 cases, the highest in a day since July, 2020.

We hope we can share the optimism and confidence of EOC Deputy Chief implementer, Councilor Joel Garganera, who said “it is better that we know where (the cases) are because prevention is better than cure,” that “we’ve been through this before. The big difference is that we now have better infrastructure, logistics, system and most of all the experience,” and that “our ability to isolate asymptomatic and mild to moderate patients in our temporary treatment and monitoring facilities will prevent our health care facilities from being overwhelmed.”

We are concerned that the OCTA Research Group, well-trusted for their reliable COVID data tracking and predictive capacity, had earlier said the hospital bed capacity in Cebu City (which increased to around 30% in the past week) could reach critical level if the number of COVID-19 cases increase.

Garganera said critical care utilization in private hospitals is now at 40.6%.

With cases rising daily, let us all pray hard and unite so that Cebu City will not revert to last year’s tragic epicenter stage where many died because of lack of hospital beds and space!

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