Malilong: War of attrition

·3 min read

Somebody please call a timeout. The quarrel over whose will should prevail over the timing of the Covid-19 testing and the duration of the quarantine of inbound passengers at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport has breached the level of the ridiculous.

The gag order imposed on the spokesperson of the Department of Health 7 was just the latest salvo in the war of attrition between Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and her backers on the one hand and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on the other.

It started getting personal when Garcia insisted on doing it her way at the airport and Medialdea retaliated by rerouting Cebu-bound international flights to Manila for a week. When the flights to Cebu resumed and Garcia again enforced her protocols, Medialdea promptly diverted the flights to the national capital for another week. The “punishment” failed to move Garcia’s position, however, as she continued to hold sway at the airport.

In the meantime, she found an unlikely ally in the DOH regional office. They defended Garcia’s protocol as innovative and when a House of Representatives committee recently met virtually with Capitol and DOH national officials, among others, the regional office’s spokesperson tangled with a DOH undersecretary, who is technically her superior, as she again voiced out the DOH 7’s support for Garcia’s position.

Retribution was swift and certain. The spokesperson can not speak for the DOH regional office again.

In the meantime, the number of new Covid-19 infections in the island continued to hover between 80 to a hundred plus during the last 10 days. Although many of these cases are in the cities that are outside the jurisdiction of the Provincial Government, the threat of the infections spreading to the towns is real because of the lack of border controls.

Also in the meantime, the vaccination program in the island remains at a snail pace. I do not have the figures on the number of Cebuanos in Cebu who have received at least a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine but I am pretty certain that they do not constitute 10 percent of the target population. The numbers could even be worse in the towns.

The reason is pretty easy to see. There are not enough vaccines. Our supplies have been few and far between. Every now and then, we shut down our vaccination centers to the frustration of those who have registered online and have been waiting for the text message advising them that their turn has come.

There is a bigger problem in the horizon. Once we have enough vaccines for everyone, can we convince the rest or at least majority of them to get themselves jabbed so that we can achieve herd immunity?

These are things that we should have been doing: Beg, badger and pressure Manila to ship to the island more vaccines. Wage a massive campaign to convince recalcitrants to have themselves vaccinated. Strictly enforce protocols designed to contain the spread of the disease.

The quarrel over arrival protocols has been a distraction. Enough of it already. Let’s focus on the only fight that matters, the one against the unseen enemy that has turned our lives upside down.

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