Editorial: What ‘sign of relief’?

·3 min read

DEPARTMENT of Health (DOH) 7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas sees a “sign of relief” because hospitals can already “somehow” decrease queueing. By what measure can a “somehow” be any “sign of relief”? Unless you find yourself afloat in a world alternate to science, apparently.

Officials of his league advise we should just stop counting altogether. True, because one death is too many and we know whose hands are bloodstained.

When our critical care utilization rate was still away from alert level 60 percent, officials said we were safe, and that assurance brought us past the threshold—we’re now at 77 percent as of Aug. 20, 2021, while surpassing 17,000 active cases in Central Visayas. It’s still puzzling how some people can’t grow hair.

Here’s Bernadas’s “sign of relief” as of Aug. 21, 2021: 481 new cases from the Province, 282 in Cebu City; 189 in Bohol; 80 in Lapu-Lapu City; 79 in Mandaue City; 37 in Negros Oriental and two in Siquijor. On that day of the report alone, 23 died, 18 of them in August and five in July.

There are, however, reports of non-performance of contact tracing in the Province, and that must be investigated as well. In fact, there must be a review altogether of just how religiously contact tracing has been conducted in all areas of concern. One of our only true gains in the fight last year came after Cebu flew in Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong to share his city’s technology-enabled contact tracing strategies. That was how we knew the scale of our problem and the commensurate effort that needed to be done. It was also at that time when there was a more systematic inter-agency pooling of data. To recall, that was one of the recommendations given by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who was appointed overseer on Central Visayas’s Covid response in 2020—for the agencies, including the health offices of local government units and line agencies to collate their data. So that was how we got an official picture of how frustratingly incompetent the interventions had been before then.

And yet, in the weeks and months that followed, just when we were gaining strides in the fight, we get occasional doses of nuisance recommendations in the form of tuob, to the crazy point of actually allocating public funds for a supposed “tuob kit,” an inhalation set up no better than your reachable “planggana.” Then there was this motorcycle backseat shield, sending motorists into some risky Ninja Turtle challenge down the fast lane.

The biggest misstep, we believe, was failing to delay the Delta entry because we insisted on not constricting our ports of entry when we released overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) after revealing negative tests from a Day 1 swab while failing to enforce a more rigid monitoring mechanism for those individuals. The receiving local government units simply were ill-equipped both in knowledge and skills in handling the balikbayans.

The OCTA Research Group has confirmed recently that the Delta cases in Mindanao were traced back to OFWs and ROFs who entered via Cebu, as revealed by the Philippine Genome Center’s sequencing. How does this reconcile with DOH 7 Chief Pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche’s claim early this month that the Delta cases in our midst are people who had no travel history?

Again, we hope to get to the bottom of whose version is true and we hope for a proper forum where these irreconcilable claims can better be discussed with transparency. If only because we owe to the thousands dead, sick and the millions affected by this pandemic the truth. So many lives have been lost and this pandemic’s ugliest twin is government that had not used resources in the most efficient way to salvage the citizens from the dire straits.

We call for accountability, and that call is exponentially crucial in the months leading to that one important occasion when we choose leaders in 2022.

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