A different response to COVID-19: Comprehensive, effective, humane, participatory
Despite having the longest lockdown period in the world, and the effectivity of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act having lapsed, we have yet to see a clear decline in the number of COVID-19 infections.
It is becoming clear that COVID-19 is going to be a prolonged health crisis triggering an unprecedented economic slowdown and the heightening of social tensions. The pandemic has become so destructive not only because of the government’s inadequate, haphazard, and delayed response, but also due to the long-running neglect of the health care system coupled with glaring socioeconomic inequalities. There is also growing evidence that the emergence of coronaviruses are linked to environmental degradation. Sadly, too, we see how the pandemic is used to justify more repressive measures against our people.
In this light, CURE Covid calls for a different kind of response to the crisis: one that is comprehensive, effective, humane, and participatory.
Comprehensive because COVID-19 is a global health emergency with wide-ranging socioeconomic implications. Any plan to address the pandemic should have measures to identify, treat, and care for patients and their families; to prevent the spread of the disease through primary health alongside quarantine measures; and to mitigate consequent adverse socioeconomic and more so political impacts resulting from the needed health measures.
The plan should also include other measures such as: psychosocial counseling for the vulnerable sections of the population; public information drives to counter the epidemic of fake news; community organization and empowerment to build social solidarity; and, most importantly, channels for early identification and mitigation of socioeconomic dislocation. Ecological aspects like community sanitation, preventing urban decay and pollution, and waste management, particularly of medical waste, must be addressed. Over the medium term, the plan should work toward reducing the economic and social inequities that render our people highly vulnerable to public health crises such as pandemics.
Effective because the health and related measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic should be adequately funded, science-based, and complemented by non-bureaucratic mechanisms for widespread and proper implementation down to the grassroots.
Humane because the impact of the pandemic, quarantine, and social distancing measures differ widely based on existing socioeconomic inequalities. Thus, the government’s response should involve humane policies such as prioritizing vulnerable groups like the poor and unemployed, those who have lost their livelihood, those in prison, among others. It requires utmost cultural sensitivity, maximum tolerance, and compassion for those in difficult or precarious situations.
Participatory because to be effective, measures to address COVID-19 should obtain the trust and participation of a well-informed and empowered citizenry. This requires maximum transparency and accountability on the part of authorities while continuing to respect human rights, as well as providing our people with enough information and leeway to be creative and innovative in dealing with the pandemic and related challenges.
Among the urgent measures we need are: free mass testing of all suspected and probable cases, frontline health workers, highly infected areas, and essential workers; assiduous contact tracing; properly equipped, accessible, and free quarantine facilities at the city, municipal, and district levels; full support to frontline health workers in terms of PPE, food, transportation, accommodation, and hazard pay, as well as adequate facilities, supplies, and equipment for hospitals; free treatment for all COVID-19 patients; increased and sustained social protection and amelioration programs for those adversely affected by the virus; the upholding of civilian supremacy, and respect and protection of civil liberties and human rights at all times.
Let us build on the social solidarity and generosity of spirit that has emerged due to this crisis. Together, we shall overcome COVID-19.
Prof. Judy Taguiwalo and Dr. Julie Caguiat
CURE Covid Spokespersons
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