Two enemies at our gates
Today, April 6, marks the 23rd day of our collective “house arrest” under the threat of being contaminated with the deadly COVID-19, considered the world’s public enemy no. 1.
In a Twitter post last April 4, Dr. Edsel Salvana, a prominent infectious diseases specialist, claimed that as of that day, there were 3,094 cases, which he said was a “low number.” Dr. Salvana added that he remained “cautiously optimistic” about this development, adding that this number, although an “outlier,” could be the result of government efforts like the enhanced community quarantine. In another tweet, he said, “the enemy is the virus, let’s focus on the enemy, COVID-19.”
Some social media friends posted a comparison of the rate of COVID-19 contamination among the 10 Asean countries, including the number of new cases on a daily basis, number of deaths and number of recovered patients. The statistics were collated from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) daily updates on the pandemic.
As of April 4, Malaysia stood out as the first in terms of number of cases at 3,333, with 53 deaths, 217 new cases and 827 recovered. Indonesia had a lower number of cases, with only 1,986 cases, 196 new cases, 181 deaths, and 136 patients who recovered. Thailand had 1,978 cases, with 103 new ones, but only 19 deaths, and 581 patients who
had since recovered — this is quite a feat, showing recovery rate of around 33 percent. Other Asean countries had less than 300 cases like Vietnam (239), Cambodia (114); Myanmar (20), and Laos (10). In Myanmar, only one died and there were 4 new cases as of April 4. In Laos, nobody died from COVID-19 but there was no report of recovery among the 10 patients there so far. Our richer neighbors, Singapore and Brunei, had been doing quite well in containing the spread of the virus. In Singapore, out of the reported 1,114 cases, only five people died and 266 patients recovered. Brunei stood out with only 134 cases, one new case; only one death and 56 patients recovered, which means that almost 50 percent of their patients were able to recover within the three-week period.
The Philippines? It was second to Malaysia in terms of contamination, at 3,018, as of April 4.
Let us look at the other parts of the statistics: in the Philippines, there were 385 new cases, 136 deaths, and only 52 reported as having recovered within that period. In other words, even if our number of COVID-19 cases was lower than Malaysia’s, we are still doing worse in containing the virus as shown in our bigger number of deaths and small number of recovered patients.
What all this is telling us is that there is something fatally wrong with how this pandemic is being managed by our government that looks at this contagion as a purely national security issue, rather than a public health emergency one. Just look at the people who compose the national COVID-19 response team: all former military generals, and all males.
At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the government responded with draconian measures like lockdowns without planning for safety nets for those who stand to lose from not being able to travel outside their homes to earn their daily keep.
In the face of mounting protests, President Duterte issued his usual threat of ordering police and soldiers to kill anyone or any group that tries to scuttle the government’s militaristic way of handling this crisis. We are not surprised at this threat but at the same time, we realize this is the other “enemy” we have to deal with once we step out of our gates.
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