“GIVE us this responsibility. Allow us to take this into our own hands for we cannot govern with what-ifs, we cannot possibly hope to achieve the welfare of our constituents when it is based on models, possibilities and assumptions. Let this be a compromise. The Provincial Ordinance 2021-04 which has adopted Executive Order No. 17 will apply only to Cebuanos. For the rest, those that will take the Cebu route and are non-Cebuanos and need to go home to their respective province, we will gladly accommodate them here in our hotels.”
These were the words of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia as she made an appeal to members of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) who attended the Provincial Board’s special session last Tuesday, June 29, 2021, at the Capitol social hall. But unfortunately, this proposal was turned down by Malacañang, which insisted that all local government units (LGUs) and government instrumentalities should follow IATF guidelines. If you are a masiao (illegal numbers game) fanatic, you will recognize the Spanish phrase in the tip sheet: “El fallo del juez es inapelable,” which means “the decision of the judge is no longer appealable.” The President has spoken.
In that forum, Gwen also lectured IATF’s representatives, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, about governance and elected officials’ responsibilities to their constituents. She knows what’s happening on the ground as she frequently interacts with local political leaders and the province’s constituents. What comes to mind when you think of responsibility? Responsibility is the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.
In my previous column, I talked about a possible “win-win solution” on the deadlock of the IATF guidelines and that of the Cebu Provincial Government protocol on arriving overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
Under IATF Resolution 114, arriving OFWs and ROFs will be swabbed on the seventh day and be quarantined in accredited hotels for 10 days before being allowed to go home with the remaining four days under home quarantine. With Cebu’s protocol, OFWs and ROFs will be swabbed immediately upon arrival. If found negative, they will be allowed to go home to their respective LGUs but still subject for another swab test on the seventh day and to be monitored by the rural health officer.
The offer of Gwen to take charge of the arriving Cebuano OFWs and ROFs is the best compromise to break this impasse. Arriving Cebuanos will be subjected to the swab-upon-arrival policy while non-Cebuanos who prefer to use the Cebu route will be subjected to IATF’s guidelines. It’s now up to Governor Garcia whether to follow the IATF guidelines or insist on her policy and possibly face sanction.
During the forum, IATF representatives offered nothing new. They pushed for the uniformity of the IATF’s guidelines’ implementation in the country’s entry points because they are afraid of the Delta variant (formerly called the Indian variant) to spread here. Mutations in the Delta variant make it replicate faster and evade the body’s immunity mechanism.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the “fastest and fittest” variant yet. The Delta variant is 50-60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant (formerly called the UK variant) which was 50-60 percent more transmissible than the original strain of Covid-19. This is why entire communities were infected together during Indian’s second wave. Apart from the vaccination rate in India, the slow study of new variants is also a matter of concern.
The spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus will pose a serious risk to people who are not fully vaccinated, according to Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. The Delta variant is highly contagious and more deadly, and may be more resistant to vaccines, Dr. Jha said.
And why is the IATF conducting the swab test on the seventh day? Because conducting it on the seventh day will increase the accuracy of detecting Covid-19. This is a process that will help health experts ensure that travelers are isolated properly upon arrival and break the chain of transmission. Study shows that the viral load is at its highest on the seventh and eighth day of incubation.
This Covid thing is a never-ending issue. After this Delta variant, there will be more variants to come. It will be an Alpha to Omega variants. The IATF, which has 55 medical experts and consultants, is sticking to its medical point of view and science-based management without taking into account other considerations like humanitarian and financial.
But why won’t they go with Cebu’s figures on Covid positivity rate? We have minimal positive cases compared to other areas. Since we have minimal cases, that means our policies and best practices are effective. That is the reason we remained on MGCQ status for almost a year now. And Garcia’s EO 17 has been in effect for several months before this brouhaha cropped up. How come we have not been infected with this “deadly and dreaded Delta variant”?
For me, it seems that IATF is adopting “scare tactics” so they can use this Covid thing for their endless selfish interest. Pang-hulga ra nang ila.