Leadership in times of crisis

"We see the best, we see the worst."



We are now a little over two weeks into our Luzon-wide lockdown due to COVID-19. We have less than two weeks to go.

And yet, it is only now that the number of cases is seeing a dramatic increase. Experts say it is going to be difficult to control the spread because we apparently did not do a good job in tracing infected people in the early days of the pandemic.

It makes one wonder whether our leaders who are making the decisions have been doing the right things and whether the virus can still be controlled or is already out of control. There are some who are saying that government responses have been slow because the decisions making is too centralized and if we continue along this line, the virus will overwhelm our entire medical infrastructure as it is already beginning to do.

The government is now scrambling to find facilities to house more patients or persons under investigation. Experience teaches us that in times of emergencies such as what the country is facing now, centralized decision making slows the response. For instance, it was only during the last several days that a decision was made for nationwide testing and at a much faster rate. This should have been done much earlier.

Let us hope that we have not lost precious time and that we will still have time to prevent the exponential increase of COVID-19 infections. We should have decentralized much earlier.

I am confident that our local medical experts in the field also know what has to be done because of what is at stake, and that they will do the right thing so long as they are given the right policy guidelines by the Department of Health. Our decision makers must exhibit true leadership be it in the national or local level. Otherwise, this country will follow in the footsteps of Italy and Spain whose medical experts are left searching to find answers on how stop the disease from killing more people.

The success or failure in our fight against the coronavirus will, to a large extent, depend on whether our leaders make the right and responsible decisions, and whether those decisions are made at the right time. There are still many important decisions to be made in the coming days, the most important of which is whether to extend the lockdown or end it as scheduled on April 14. There are now more than 2,000 cases and we still do not know the whole picture. As of Tuesday, we have tested only a little over 3,000 people which is quite low. Another is to identify places where we can confine the patients if infections reaches the thousands.

Some of what the DOH is doing is in logistical planning and therefore can be considered non-medical. We all know that they are giving all their best but perhaps DOH can consider asking professional logistics experts to help them plan. This will allow the medical experts in the DOH to concentrate on medical planning issues. When it comes to the test kits, we seem to be so dependent on donations. Unlike the personal protective equipment where the DOH announced the purchase of a million units, nothing as far as I know have been announced on how many testing kits have been ordered to add to the donated kits.

Congress has now given the President additional public funds in order to support those who will be hit hard by the lockdown. As the President announced in his last address to the nation, we have nothing to worry about because there is money to support all government programs in the fight against COVID-19. So, there should be no problem with buying a lot more test kits to be able to test more people.

In times of crisis, we see the best in a lot of our leaders regardless of whether they are in the legislative, executive branch or local government executives. Those who are good shine in the face of challenges. Even those who are less endowed with leadership qualities can still shine with their sincerity because the people can see this. We also see the best in many ordinary people who simply want to help and try to do their part in this hour of need. Those who are trying to make homemade face masks to donate to our medical frontliners cannot help but elicit admiration from all of us.

Unfortunately, emergencies also bring out the worst in some people like those landlords who instead of helpling our frontliners are shove away or those people who ganged up on a medical worker in Mindanao, damaging his eyesight. There are also selfish people who were able to hoard face masks and alcohol in order to sell them at astronomical prices.

We also see them in some of our political leaders which is unfortunate. Due to the very wide coverage of the pandemic in the country, people are watching and taking stock of what our officials are doing or not doing. They know who are sincerely working hard. This is not the time for accounting because most of us are trying to scramble in order to stay safe and trying to find something to eat. When all this is over and our nation is able to get over the hill with minimum of damage, only then will the time of reckoning start.

As of now, the best way for ordinary people like you and me to help in the effort is to stay home, follow the lockdown guidelines and hope that we can get over this pandemic alive and in one piece. Stay safe.

Topics: Florencio Fianza , Leadership in times of crisis , coronavirus disease 2019 , COVID-19 , Department of Health , DOH , legislative , executive
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