"The DOH is not in a good place."
For the second time since the start of the pandemic, the Department of Health has revised its reporting system. The DOH will henceforth just be emphasizing active cases instead of total infections because it is more reflective of the situation. That is also what the DOH said the first time it changed the reporting system when it separated “old” and “new” cases.
It is difficult to understand why the DOH is still struggling to develop a good reporting system. Five months into the pandemic, it is still harmonizing its reporting system from the data coming from the various agencies reporting infections, recoveries and deaths. One would think that by this time, the DOH should have already perfected one.
It is no wonder that we are not doing very well in our fight against the virus. We might even be losing control. It does not give much confidence that the DOH is still groping in the dark after all this time. The net effect of this constant changing is to cast doubt about the integrity of the reports. This may be one of the reasons why there has been a chorus of criticism asking for the resignation of the Health Secretary including people from the medical profession. Unfortunately for them, the President has consistently refused to replace the Secretary. He is however, doing the next best thing and that is taking away some functions from the DOH and assigning them to the recently appointed czars which will hopefully inject a new sense of urgency to the situation and start doing things right for a change.
We are now currently struggling in our effort to contain the virus. This is because of the need to reopen the economy—something everyone understands. How to do it in such a way that the government will not have to reimpose a total lockdown is the problem that needs to be managed astutely. New cases have been breaching 1,000 lately and on other days 2,000. Certainly, the country cannot afford to have the infection get out of control.
I hate to sound like a broken record but we are now paying dearly for our mistakes during the early stages of this pandemic. Had we tested, traced and isolated those infected when it was still relatively easy, the problem would not have grown so big. There would have been no need to appoint so many czars.
As it is, the country has now more than 57,500 cases as of Tuesday. The number grows dramatically each day.
The IATF recently came out with a new protocol on localized lockdowns in the Metro area. It mandated that all lockdowns will be for two weeks and not the usual two days in order to contain the infection and allow for the testing, contact tracing and isolation of all those infected. This undoubtedly is a correct move and should have been done earlier.
With the growing infections, three czars were appointed to perform functions that will specifically contain or prevent run away infections. I agree that even with daily infections in the 1,000 to 2,000 range, testing, contact tracing and isolating can still be done. But it has to be done without further delays because the window is closing very fast.
In addition, there is a need to hire and train more contact tracers. The ratio of one is to 800 is unrealistic because of the kind of work involved. It should be one is to 400 people only. So, for the next few weeks, we will be seeing increased activities in the testing, tracing and isolating of infected people.
The police has already been asked to assist in locating people who are self-quarantining in crowded houses to bring them to properly constructed isolation wards. The government is clearly realizing that we are not winning the COVID-19 battle and will take a much longer time to get over the disease if ever. We are now the second worst performing ASEAN country after Indonesia. The low death rate should not lull the government into a false complacency because there are many things that the disease can do to a recovered person like damage to the kidneys, lungs and the heart. All that the longer struggle means is that more than 10 million senior citizens and those with underlying medical conditions will have to quarantine much longer.
Long confinement is not good for anyone regardless of age due to mental health. I hope the IATF can come up with programs to make it easier for them. Many of these people are on their own without government resources behind them trying to last as long as they can until they finally kick the bucket. Surely, the government can come up with something.