How best to protect our people

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas (The Freeman) - April 8, 2021 - 12:00am

COVID-19 continues to pose the most serious threat to people and nations.

The world released a happy sigh of relief with various vaccines made available to combat the virus. This, however, was short-lived as several virus mutations and variants appeared, spreading quickly and infecting more in various parts of the world. Worse, some reports even mention that the variants may be afflicting not only the seniors but the young as well.

Added to the persistent worry about what vaccines are best and safe for people are valid concerns about whether the vaccines can also protect all from the variants.

Can present vaccinations really protect people from COVID-19 and its variants? How long will the vaccine protection be valid?

In this country, aside from these earlier questions and concerns raised about the vaccines, people are disappointed, even angry, about the slowness or absence of clear vaccination information, program and policy nationally and locally.

COVID management and/or governance, sadly, has been too politicized.

Medical and scientific experts, specialists, researchers and practitioners have been sidelined by political appointees, often without any qualification except their proven loyalty to those in power.

COVID governance has also been irresponsibly costly, at the expense of the Filipino people.

National debts, purportedly intended for the protection of the people versus COVID, are now in trillions. While government is quick to borrow loans, of serious concern is the continuing high rise in COVID cases (almost hitting a million soon), which confirms that the actual allocation/use of the huge COVID budget has been inefficiently slow, benefitting only an insignificant portion of the needy, and completely off-target in terms of protection.

Testing, tracing, management of mild and serious cases, availability of vaccines and vaccination schedules, among others, have significantly been wanting and deficient.

Where did all the funds go? To date, there have been no transparency and accountability about the loans and budget allocation.

How long before the Filipino people call government to task for this obvious neglect and incompetence?

Will other regions and LGUs wait until the seriously desperate predicament and situation of NCR and other Luzon provinces spread to their areas?

With very high cases and the rapid spread and reproduction of the virus to an alarmingly widening population, hospitals are now clogged, congested and unable to provide urgent and appropriate medical response, especially to the most serious of COVID cases.

Just as Cebu experienced during its epicenter period last year, sadly, so many in Luzon are dying or have died while frantically searching for any hospital that could treat them urgently.

How to declog hospitals so the most serious cases are attended to first and immediately? Where can those with mild cases stay? What financial and other support is readily available and accessible to those who are sick, both those with mild and serious symptoms?

While health protocols have to be strictly implemented and followed to avert further spread of the virus, staying home is not an option for the needy who cannot afford not to move and search for daily food for their household.

Has national government learned precious lessons from last year about what appropriate quarantine policy is best to adopt, one that balances the health and economic priorities, especially of the vulnerable groups, sectors and communities?

How best and quickly to temper, slow down or reduce the virus spread? More importantly, how best to respond to the needy and vulnerable most adversely and widely impacted by the virus and quarantine policies?

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