Cabaero: Communication protocols

Nini Cabaero
·2 min read

PART of the misery experienced by the public during this pandemic is that they are recipients of the sometimes inconsistent and confusing statements of government officials.

One official makes a statement that is later contradicted by another. And it has not happened once or twice but several times and with sources of these statements ranging from local to national government executives.

The recent claim that Cebu City is showing signs of having attained herd immunity from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) based on results of antibody tests on a group of people is just that – a claim unsupported by data.

Another example was the warning of Councilor Joel Garganera of a Cebu City lockdown should people continue to ignore health protocols and the cases increase. He said this after a huge group of people showed up for a shoe sale who did not practice masking and distancing.

In the herd immunity claim, the Department of Health (DOH) saw the need to issue a statement rejecting the assertion because it could lead to others relaxing their guard and exposing themselves to the Covid-19 virus.

Who made the claim, who did the DOH central office correct? DOH 7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas. But Bernadas later said he was referring to the possibility of persons subjected to surveillance antibody tests in the Carbon market developing immunity, as 48 percent of the vendors had developed antibodies.

Well, the DOH central office didn’t think that making such claims about herd immunity from Covid-19 was proper because nothing was definite about immunity and antibodies. It is when 60 to 70 percent of the population got infected and developed antibodies that herd immunity is achieved, it said.

Not only was Bernadas’s claim unsupported, it did not have a tinge of truth to back it. Although the number of Covid-19 cases has gone down, it doesn’t mean it is safe to go out or hold gatherings with family and friends.

Bernadas should take to heart the DOH’s own advice to the public. Don’t fall into the trap of believing the virus is gone or you’re protected or that there is no more Covid-19 threat. To do so is to risk your life or the lives of others.

On Garganera’s statement, Mayor Edgardo Labella had to qualify it and himself said granular or per barangay lockdowns are possible but not one for the entire city. DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the same. She downplayed Garganera’s warning, saying Covid-19 numbers in Cebu City do not warrant such stringent quarantine measure. She said the DOH recognizes the authority of local government units to declare a localized lockdown, but there has to be basis.

While there are health standards to follow to protect the public from infection, there must also be communication protocols for government officials to abide by when talking about Covid-19 to prevent confusion and their embarrassment.