That the Department of Health has recognized that wide-scale lockdowns are no longer effective in containing Covid-19 infections, it has practically passed on the decisions of scaled lockdowns to the local government executives.
DOH spokesperson Rosario Vergeire, in her media briefing on Aug. 23, 2021, said thus, “Pag tinitingnan natin, when we are trying to analyze together with our experts, it looks like it’s not really being effective anymore,” Vergeire said.
Lockdowns have been the prescribed routine ever since the pandemic took off in the first quarter of last year. It proved effective at some point in “flattening the curve,” allowing government time to expand health care facilities for a period.
The highly-incendiary Delta variant, however, is one game changer, accounting for 1,273 cases so far. Genome sequencing results on Aug. 23, 2021, revealed 466 more cases, 19 of which was Central Visayas in origin. Big wave in all places altogether.
The DOH, after a close look at the patterns of transmissions, this time tries a different tack. It is now recommending granular lockdowns while pushing for the improvement of the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) strategy.
“Prevent” should mean strict enforcement of minimum health protocols. “Detect” should be a more active and expansive contact tracing effort in the local government unit (LGU) level. Isolation can only be possible with available isolation facilities, and citizens being made to understand that self-quarantine at the slightest hint of flu-like symptoms is a responsibility they must bear.
Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, Emergency Operations Center chief, sums up his recommendations, thus: “strict enforcement, speedy swabbing and contact tracing, hiring of more medical frontliners, strengthening vaccination and strict enforcement of the executive orders.”
The gradual reopening of the economy early this year after good strides in our fight towards the end of 2020 gained some momentum already. The bummer came after a few upticks in the first quarter and eventually, this Delta-triggered onslaught.
That momentum brought some gains and thus our hesitancy to back down. The balance had to tilt to the economy’s favor while parrying whatever jabs the pandemic throws at us.
“We all know in most countries all over the world, nakikita na unti-unti na rin naman nagbubukas din sila sa kanilang ekonomiya but still they have this kind of restrictions locally,” said Vergeire.
It must be understood that much of the confidence these countries have comes from expansive vaccination programs. In the Philippines, we won’t be seeing the light of day of herd immunity anytime in the immediate future, but we can at least try population immunity, most especially in economic centers.
The decision to implement granular lockdowns could possibly fall all the way on village chiefs, government’s community frontliners. We already have the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams that connect the community to health facilities. Local officials must internalize this heightened role now that government is bent on lowering the quarantine levels in all places while the infection waves show no hint of waning.