Editorial: Our fight

WITH the ominous figure of 33 confirmed cases as of yesterday, March 10, it’s like our two-sided battle royale has began. From hereon, we will be writing our own version of our fight against this wildfire-of-a-disease, the Covid-19.

The Research Institute of Tropical Medicine had begun conducting confirmatory tests in January and we had our first confirmed case on Jan. 30, 2020. On Feb. 2, 2020, the Philippines marked its first death from Covid-19 outside of China. But much of what kept government busy in February were quarantine activities, until March came and suddenly we have 33 cases blowing on our faces.

The porousness and mobility of modern societies make it difficult to contain something as diminutive and fecund as a virus. Our health agency frontliners also tell of stories that illustrate the challenges in making citizens understand safety protocols, not to mention resistance either out of sheer ignorance or inability to adjust to new rules.

So it may not be fair to dump all the burden of defense on the Department of Health (DOH), the agency that finds itself in the eye of the Covid-19 storm. Regardless of its weaknesses, it is now incumbent upon every citizen to rally behind the DOH. The center must hold, and we can help firm it up. Crisis situations not only challenge creativity, but also test character.

The Covid-19 comes at a time when we have a health care system that leaves much to be desired. The communication office of the RITM says only about 200 to 250 people are getting tested a day in the country’s only diagnostic laboratory for the coronavirus. Suspected infection undergoes as much as four tests, and the agency was able to run only 2,000 samples since January. Government itself admits the limited number of test kits, although the bigger picture is really about the budget cut for health. This is our unfortunate given on this very day, and although there is time to air gripes and hold the guilty accountable, the times call for cooperation and caution from citizens.

Already we have initiatives from different sectors in the fight against the virus spread. The University of the Philippines is now encouraging its faculty members to adjust their instructional activities in the light of Covid-19, for the classes to explore platforms that will minimize physical engagement, such as videoconferencing.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, on the other hand, is prohibiting excess passengers in buses.

Social distancing and all sorts of measures, big and small, are ways that citizens can initiate on their own. There are more creative measures out there, a good number of them uncaught by the spotlight, but just as important and crucial.

Under a state of public health emergency, people defying mandatory measures could face sanctions that range from one to six months imprisonment, with penalty of P20,000 to P50,000.

This can easily be avoided by clear conscience and responsibility as befits a good citizen, a worthy Filipino.