Former Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday denounced the Department of Health for rejecting the proposal of independent researchers to impose a two-week hard lockdown to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
“Why the knee-jerk reaction of the DOH leadership is to contradict outright the independent experts? Why not meet and discuss instead? I thought it was a whole-of-nation approach in fighting COVID? Why didn’t they listen to other sectors?” said Binay.
Despite the dire warnings made by OCTA Research, the Health department said the country is not at a level where a lockdown is needed.
The OCTA group said a surge in cases would put a strain on the health care system as hospitals fill up again with COVID-19 cases.
“We respect the opinions of our experts outside of government but the decision to escalate or de-escalate [quarantine measures] would be based on health care capacity,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
“Although, we’re sounding the alarm already, based on objective discussion and analysis, we can see we are not yet at the level where we need a lockdown,” she said.
But according to Binay, the more transmissible coronavirus Delta variant that was first detected in India has the potential to “bring our country to its knees.”
“This is why everyone is concerned and putting forward possible courses of action to stop it from spreading. But we do not see any urgency in the actions of the DOH leadership. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that by their inaction, they are again putting in danger the lives of doctors, nurses, and other medical frontliners. They seem to be treating lightly the untold sufferings that an outbreak of Delta may bring to the people,” he said.
The former Vice President added: “The DOH leadership is saying we don’t need to worry. They are ready. The last time they said that was last year when the first cases of COVID were officially confirmed. Look where we are now.”
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority expressed its support to the DOH’s appeal to intensify local COVID-19 responses with the local transmission of the highly infectious Delta (B.1.617.2) variant in the country.
MMDA chairman Banjamin Abalos Jr. said the best defense against any COVID-19 variant, including Delta, is a combination of consistent adherence to the minimum public health protocols, vaccination, and having healthy lungs.
“While the government is implementing response against COVID-19, the public play a vital role in protecting their own health and wellbeing. Let us strictly follow the health protocols set by the DOH and stop smoking and vaping to keep yourself healthy from any infectious disease,” he said.
Moreover, the MMDA chief encouraged the public to get inoculated against COVID-19 to help the government in achieving population protection the soonest possible time.
“COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective. Hence, I urge the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible and avoid brand preference. Again, the best vaccine is what is available,” he added.
Dr. Loida Alzona, head of the MMDA’s Health and Environmental Protection Office stressed that staying healthy is necessary as the pandemic is not yet over.
“Practicing healthy habits, discontinuing tobacco consumption, and observing minimum public health standards such as wearing of face masks and face shields, frequent washing of hands, and the observation of physical distancing must be complied at all times to avoid spreading or contracting the coronavirus,” Alzona emphasized.
“In addition, smokers who have tested positive for COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe symptoms. Now is the best time to quit smoking,” she added.