More UP contributions to COVID-19 fight | Inquirer Opinion
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More UP contributions to COVID-19 fight

The University of the Philippines (UP) just broke into the top 100 Asian universities for 2019, one of only five Southeast Asian universities to do so (the others are two each from Singapore and Malaysia). For the first time also, they zoomed into the top 500 universities all over the world. Think what UP could do with the same level of support these other universities receive from their governments/alumni.

I bring this “breaking news” up because it is a fitting accompaniment to the paean I am about to offer to UP again. It turns out that I was remiss in my praise to UP in last week’s column, unaware of the contributions of many others in UP to the COVID-19 fight.


A UP College of Engineering (COE) alumnus, Ramon Ramirez emailed, calling my attention to the fact that the UP Engineering Community had teamed up with the UP College of Medicine and the Philippine General Hospital on engineering solutions in the fight against COVID-19, such as assembling face-shield frames and adult ventilators, using UV light to clean PPEs, disinfection and decontamination through plasma cleaning, and the tracking of supplies and of persons exposed to the disease. The projects are designed and implemented by members of the faculty (Happy Denoga, Paul Rodgers, Ariel Blanco, Jong Vasquez, Jun Ballesteros) and are in various stages of implementation. Funding comes from alumni, who have donated, preferring by and large to remain anonymous, much more than what is required for the projects. The COE is in the happy position of looking for more projects.

And there is the UP PGH, one of the most underfunded and yet most intellectually gifted of UP units. Its role has been to take in the severe-to-critical COVID-19 cases (the most difficult), and it has done so with intelligence and elan. A crisis management team assessed the options, the strategies were decided upon, and executed (that’s where the elan came in) properly. Remember, folks, this is a 100-year-old hospital.


Result: They don’t have any supply shortages, and out of 900 health care workers (300 per 8-hour shift), only 12 were infected, and thanks be to God and their methods, not one has died. The mortality rate of patients is about 19 percent, but that’s pretty good, considering that they, for the most part, are those other hospitals cannot tackle. Congratulations, Director Gap Legaspi and your team.

Then my colleague Cielo Magno sent me a message that the UPCOViD Response Team now has more than 100 members from different UP units. That’s a lot of brains. I understand UP Baguio is doing its part by producing ethyl alcohol. Everyone contributing what they can. Enough to make my heart fill up to bursting.

By the way, the UPCOViD Response Team has a new report which really stresses the importance of “flattening the curve,” i.e., significantly reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in the Philippines through the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). The health care system will be overwhelmed way beyond its capacity with the relatively low number of hospital and ICU beds. Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal are particularly at risk. This report is all evidence-based. The extension of the ECQ to May 15 gives the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases more time to plan how the lockdown is to be phased.

And here, the UP School of Economics steps up to bat. In its first paper, “Surviving the Lockdown and Beyond,” it proposed a gradual, selective approach along two lines: On the one hand, restrictions on mobility could be lifted, first, within barangays, then within cities/municipalities, and then between cities/municipalities—the pacing of which should be informed by both public health indicators and the readiness of local systems to “quarantine-test-isolate.” The geographical approach.

The second line is concerned with the revival of economic activity—the sectoral approach—and this approach is the focus of its second paper, “A Sectoral View of Lifting the Lockdown and the Use of Sample-based Random Testing.” The title is daunting, but the IATF would do well to heed its analysis and recommendations. Saving lives while permitting livelihoods is what it is all about. More about this next week.

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TAGS: coronavirus philippines, COVID-19, education, frontliners, health, pandemic, Quarantine, UP, UP-PGH
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