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A mindless, shoot-from-the-hip response

It seems our country has swung from one end of the pendulum to the other where the 2019-nCoV is concerned. Previous columns discussed the never-to-be-forgotten message of Sen. Bong Go saying that it was “improper” for Philippine authorities to ban the entry of travelers from China on account of the 2019-nCoV outbreak. Why? “Kasi hindi lang naman po ang China ang tinamaan ng virus na ito. May ibang bansa rin po na tinamaan,” he said. “It will not be proper if we will single out on China alone.”

And so the Philippines allowed two cruise ships and one airline flight to land/dock in the country while other countries were already taking countermeasures. And flights from Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific were still going to and from China even as airlines from other countries were already cancelling/suspending/restricting their flights.

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Less than a week later, our authorities have swung to the other side. They banned not only Chinese nationals from entry to the Philippines, they banned not only Filipinos from traveling to China, they also banned the return of overseas Filipino workers to Hong Kong, Macau and China (I read somewhere that this involved about 10,000 OFWs) from their vacations here in the Philippines.

Now that’s what I call a totally mindless, shoot-from-the-hip, panicked response. I get where nationals from China are banned—and after all, China locked them down, too. With respect to our Filipinos who want to travel—business or pleasure—to China, or Hong Kong, or Macau, I can still see the point, although the ban may have been too much. They should just be warned that on their return, they will be subject to quarantine for 14 days, before allowing them entry.

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But banning vacationing OFWs from returning to their jobs? That is beyond all logic. The logic of the first two is cases is to reduce the possibility of contagion for us in the Philippines, right? Chinese nationals coming in are banned altogether, and our fellow Filipinos quarantined upon their return. But OFWs returning to their jobs in Hong Kong and Macau? What possible public health risk could they impose on the Philippines? They are going back there, and staying there for at least another year, so no effect on the Filipinos at home.

Ah, Malacañang explains. The President is not worried about the risk to us here in the Philippines, but the risk to the OFWs returning to Hong Kong or Macau, so he is still studying the situation.

Oh, bollocks. All Malacañang has to do is to look at any dashboard—the World Health Organization has one, Johns Hopkins University has another (more sources), to see that Hong Kong has 18 (WHO)/24 (Johns Hopkins) confirmed cases (one death so far), and Macau has 10 cases (no deaths). Further, the dashboards will show you that these are far lower than the confirmed cases in Japan (45) or Singapore (28). Even Thailand has more cases (28). And even further, the public health systems of Hong Kong and Macau are rated excellent. So what’s to study?

And not to worry, says Malacañang. They are being looked after while they are here. Oh, yes? What about the jobs they might lose because they are prevented from traveling back there?

Please. These swings from one side to the other are not any way to run the country. A little bit more critical thinking should be the order of the day. Shooting from the hip is okay only for cowboys.

What are the facts? To date, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard, there are 31,515 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV all over the world (China plus 27 other countries/regions), with 31,203 occurring in Mainland China and 312 everywhere else, including 50 in total from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. So the 27 countries/regions share 312 confirmed cases.

These 31,515 confirmed cases have resulted in 638 deaths. There are also 1,663 recoveries so far, with 12 recoveries occurring in seven of the 27 areas outside China (five in Thailand, two in NSW, Australia, one each in Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea). That means China accounts for 99 percent of the confirmed cases, and about 99.3 percent of the recoveries. Maybe that is some comfort for China.

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TAGS: 2019-nCoV outbreak, China, Sen. Bong Go, travel ban
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