"We have yet to see the numbers soar."
I don’t want to sound pessimistic but as we enter the fourth week of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, we cannot expect the number of the COVID-19-infected to subside. Rather, it will be more on the contrary. We don’t need rocket science to come up with this grim projection.
First, it seems that the test results being released by the Department of Health are about five days delayed. Meaning, the results released last Thursday showing 322 new cases, were taken most probably last March 28. Counting 14 days backward, the incubation period for the coronavirus, we could place the date of their infection around March 14.
Hence, we still have to see the results of the chaotic March 16 and 17 when people surged at the checkpoints set up in the boundaries Metro Manila shares with its neighboring towns, disregarding calls for social distancing. As I have discussed before, even if only one turned out to be infected in any particular checkpoint, he or she would be enough to infect a hundred more.
Second, the Inter-Agency Task Force announced it would ready for mass testing starting April 14. As Health Secretary Francisco Duque had earlier admitted, the number of those infected might be understated given the lack of enough testing kits then, the mass testing to be conducted ten days from now will reveal the real extent of COVID-19 infection in the country.
While we pray for the best, we certainly have to prepare for the worst, especially in coming up with the much-needed quarantine facilities. Reports coming from the ground have it that many people are dying not due to COVID-19 but because of being left unattended in the oven-hot tents outside hospital facilities. According to some accounts, some of those who died in the triage had tested negative for the virus.
It’s a good thing then the government and the private sector have made available some facilities on stand-by for quarantine purposes.
According to social media postings, the Iglesia ni Cristo has made the Philippine Arena available for use for quarantine.
The government has announced the availability of several edifices in the Roxas Boulevard area, the PICC, the World Trade Center, etc.
But the more novel idea which would literally serve its purpose as quarantine areas, is the use of passenger ships as proposed by Senator Francis Tolentino, to which Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has responded favorably.
The deployment of ships, either privately owned or from the Philippine Coast Guard, as emergency hospitals, will greatly ease the burden of public medical facilities in addressing the growing need for hospital beds during this time of national health emergency.
In his letter to Tolentino, Tugade bared the transportation department will initially provide three passenger vessels—one for Luzon (Manila port), Visayas (Cebu port), and Mindanao (Davao port) to serve as hospital ships, with each vessel able to carry up to 1,200 passengers.
Tugade however added it would the Department of Health and the Department of Public Works and Highways who will be in charge of retrofitting these ships for immediate use as health facilities for COVID-19 patients and persons under investigation.
Unlike other agencies and local government units which seem to still groping through their way as the virus continues to devastate the country, Tugade seems ready for the challenge as acting on Tolentino’s suggestion, he immediately called a meeting of the concerned attached agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard, Marina and Philippine Ports Authority to discuss the plan to commission private passenger vessels and if necessary, PCG vessels, as hospital ships.
Tugade even instructed Marina head Vice Adm. Narciso Vingson Jr. to coordinate with ship owners and the health department and operationalize the plan within five days from March 26. As of yesterday, Vingson reported back to Tugade that he had made the proper coordination.
I have criticized Tugade in the past. But at this point, I have nothing but praises for him for acceding to a suggestion from someone who has at one time, been at the forefront of the government’s response to natural disasters and calamities—Tolentino. He is very much unlike other government officials who opt to ignore ideas coming from other people, solely trusting on no one but themselves. As if they alone held the key to the problem’s solution.
As we prepare for the worst, we have to welcome everybody’s idea. In times like these, there is no small or big, good or bad ideas. Everything counts.
* * *
Lives unnecessarily lost.
Last Sunday, a plane on a medical mission crashed at the NAIA shortly after takeoff killing all its eight passengers and crew. Among those who were killed were couple Marilyn de Jesus and her husband John Richard Hurst.
But according to sources, the two didn’t have to die in that plane crash—had Hurst only been admitted to a local hospital.
According to sources, Hurst was sick, not because of COVID-19, but due to Zika virus. Hurst reportedly attended the wedding of de Jesus’ daughter in Coron in Palawan, where supposedly got infected.
Unfortunately, no hospital in the Philippines, not even RITM, admitted Hurst and they had to fly to Japan where he was to be treated.
Had he been only accepted by any local hospital, he and his wife would have no business being in that plane. They would have still been alive today.