Mantras of gov’t in battling the virus | Inquirer Opinion
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Mantras of gov’t in battling the virus

What works and what doesn’t work in the war against the virus are easily visible if only our government keenly observes what’s happening on the ground. I have discussed some of them last week, but there’s a lot more.

First, the border checkpoints between local government units (LGUs) don’t work. They’re traffic choke points with little usefulness in stopping the spread of the virus. What works are barangay zone checkpoints manned by Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) members and tanod who personally know the new faces and returning old faces in their communities. They should order these new arrivals to go to the local health unit for free antigen tests in order to identify asymptomatic virus carriers. Such aggressive mass testing is the most effective means to prevent the clandestine spread of the virus in our communities.

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The BHERT members should also make a list of barangay residents who work either in places with high infection rates or in jobs that expose them to many people daily. These residents should be tested regularly and must be among the priorities in vaccination.

Second, transparency must be exacted from all government agencies. Few cases may mean few tests are being administered. More cases may mean extensive tests are being done. There are mayors and governors who refuse to do aggressive mass testing because they’re paranoid that high infection numbers in their LGUs will be viewed as failure of their leadership. They’re more concerned with image rather than preventing the spread of the virus. Because of this, the mere number of infections publicized by each LGU is an unreliable gauge unless they’re coupled with proof that they’re implementing an extensive mass testing program.

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This kind of image paranoia pervades even national and provincial agencies, including police and military forces, to the point that many of them refuse to get tested even if the tests are offered for free by LGUs. Word on the ground is that the infection rate in these government offices are far more than reported figures. It makes us wonder if the national government’s refusal to embark on mass testing is induced by the same image paranoia, and if such is the case, our national infection figures are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Third, for the sake of LGUs, the national government should provide a list of suppliers of reliable antigen test and personal protective equipment, with their comparative prices. While an antigen test can be obtained for only P600 each, some LGUs are paying (and charging) P1,500 or more for each test. These LGUs are probably running around like headless chickens in their search for medical supplies, since there’s no supplier guidance from national agencies. Reports of unscrupulous sellers of fake or substandard medical supplies make such a pre-screened list even more imperative. Dr. Minguita Padilla, co-convenor of Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare, has a laudable advocacy of advising some LGUs on pandemic matters, and she provides a list of reliable suppliers with reasonable prices.

Fourth, there’s a need to adopt surgical lockdowns instead of the lamentable metro- and province-wide lockdowns. If a household member turns COVID-19-positive, he/she should be brought to an LGU quarantine facility where he/she will be fully cared for, made comfortable, and completely provided with food and medicines for free. The rest of the household must be required to quarantine at home in order to ensure that the virus is not merely incubating among them. All the household’s needs must also be provided for free so that they don’t need to go out for work or provisions. Such surgical lockdown will be a whole lot cheaper for our country, rather than the LGU-wide lockdown that works to detonate an economic nuclear bomb, devastating the businesses of the 99 percent virus-free members of the community, along with the livelihood of the mere 1 percent who are infected.

Aggressive mass testing, surgical lockdown, full transparency, and supplies information—these should be the mantras of government in this long and protracted battle against the virus.

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For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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