Former Vice President Jejomar Binay on Friday criticized the government for its failure to prevent the entry of the COVID-19 Delta variant and the continuing spike of active coronavirus cases in the country.
“The number of COVID-19 cases is rising fast. Again. Government is imposing restrictions. Again. It’s repetitive but not learning. And until the government shapes up, we will be trapped in this loop of uncertainty because of the government’s inefficiency and lack of urgency,” Binay said in a statement.
“I’m sure, they’ll say it’s our fault. When will the government admit that until now, they are still failing in testing, contact tracing, border control, and vaccine procurement?” he added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson echoed Binay, hitting the Department of Health (DOH) for its lack of preparation due to its “medicine attitude” and knowing the Delta variant has already gripped India and Indonesia.
“It seems they have not prepared adequately,” said Lacson, who has been at loggerheads with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
Lacson noted it is “pathetic” that our national health authorities “are no different, being reactive instead of proactive.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Lacson’s confirmed running mate in next year’s national elections, pressed the DOH and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to come up with complementary measures to stop the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant.
Sotto said policymakers and health experts must be ready in case of a spike in cases due to the Delta variant.
He suggested the reimposition of stringent movement protocols across all community quarantine classifications against the holding of mass gatherings, which he said could easily become superspreader events.
On Thursday, the Health department confirmed the local transmission of the Delta variant in the country.
“Clusters of Delta variant cases were seen to be linked to other local cases, therefore, exhibiting local transmission,” DOH stated, adding that the confirmation came following the “phylogenetic analysis” conducted by the Philippine Genome Center as well as the department’s own Epidemiology Bureau.
The former vice president earlier warned that unless government improves the country’s health system, upgrades contact tracing and mass testing, and vaccinates a large segment of the population, the country will go through a prolonged period of hard and loose lockdowns, or peaks and drops in infections and the number of recoveries and deaths.
“Ultimately, this government will be judged by the way it has handled this pandemic, and how people’s lives fare as we collectively and individually navigate the challenges of this crisis,” said Binay.
Lacson said the reports involving the vessels from Indonesia that moored in Butuan, where the crew became potential spreaders of the Delta variant, are a case in point to highlight that “medicine cabinet” attitude of DOH authorities.
“It seems nothing has changed from early 2020, when our health officials failed miserably in the conduct of contact tracing on the fellow passengers of a Wuhan couple who traveled from Cebu to Dumaguete and Manila,” the senator said.
Worse, he said the government refused to close our borders to travelers from Mainland China “when we already knew that the first known COVID-19 patient came from Wuhan, China in December 2019.”
Due to this, Lacson, who is gunning for the presidency, said the first order of the day for the next leader of the country is to scout for a more qualified and better person at the helm of the Health Department.
The Health Secretary should also make sure that business and health don’t mix especially during a time of extreme emergency like the pandemic.
Also, Lacson said the public sector must always take the lead and initiative from the private sector in addressing health emergencies, but not to a point of discouraging the latter from being partners in the endeavor.
“For, if the private sector has taken the initiative, it can only mean that the government is failing to address the problem at hand. Sadly, it is what is happening,” he added.
According to Lacson, it is sad that as individuals, “we have developed this wrong attitude of checking on our medicine cabinets at home only when somebody already gets sick or hurt, when we should always be prepared with making available medicines for common colds, cough, fever as well as unexpected injuries and emergencies.
The DOH announced that at least 47 Delta cases have already been detected in the country.
“We can have GCQ (general community quarantine), but we should be strict on ang mass gatherings. I admit that it is important to continue our economic recovery, but it is equally important to make sure that our people are safe from the virus,” Sotto said.
He said the public’s good health should be the ultimate target when coming up with response measures.
The Senate leader likewise backed the recommendation of the 17 mayors of Metro Manila to stop all outdoor activities for children five years and above and said that suspending the policy would greatly lessen the number of people in public spaces, and thus slow down the transmission of the coronavirus.
“Let us be proactive,” he added.