"Our government should invest in finding the cure."
Three weeks into the quarantine, we have seen a surge of confirmed cases due to the accelerated testing of suspected COVID-positive patients and the increase of available testing kits in the country.
Since last week, the number of cases has tripled, while the number of deaths has doubled.
On the good side, we have also seen a number of patients who have recovered and were discharged.
Based on previous projections, the peak of the curve would be reached by June this year with 75,000 cases. Given the trend this March, it seems that the curve is slowly being flattened with the help of the lockdown. However, this is not enough.
According to the Philippine Medical Association, 17 doctors have died from COVID-19. These doctors have devoted their time and effort and made the ultimate sacrifice of serving their fellow Filipinos despite knowing the fatal danger that this virus posed on them, having direct contact with patients. They are heroes. Sadly, these deaths could have been prevented.
COVID-19 is often compared with the previous epidemics such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002 to 2003 which also came from a certain strain of coronavirus and affected 26 countries; the influenza-A H1N1 virus in 2009 which killed hundreds of thousands globally; the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome in 2012 which was similarly caused by a specific strain of coronavirus and affected 27 countries; and the Ebola virus infection in 2014 in West Africa and other countries in Europe and the United States. Although scientists deemed that the COVID-19 is not as deadly as the others, the disease is considered unmanageable due to the uncontrolled transmission of the disease. Hence, it is very unfortunate that people die due to factors which could have been prevented.
At any rate, the government should invest its efforts on finding the cure to this disease. Health workers are currently treating symptoms in the hope of improving the natural immune response of patients. Last week, I presented the recommendations and actions of foreign countries and pharmaceutical companies as viable solutions in treating patients with COVID-19. Understandably, testing of vaccines and new medications would take months. Although efforts are under way, we must also begin exploring our options. While I commend the initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology in collaborating with foreign countries for the “solidarity trial” of the COVID-19 treatment options, I urge the government to also consider commencing our own research on possible treatment against COVID-19. We cannot simply rely on the developments made by foreign countries, especially knowing that logistics is currently a problem globally.
India, for example, has also joined the “global race” in developing a vaccine against the coronavirus. India is deemed as one of the most robust manufacturers and developers of vaccines worldwide in the world.
The Philippines also has local experts, professional health workers, and researchers whom we can tap for this endeavor. The team from University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Public Health led by Dr. Raul Destura has successfully created our local test kits which are more affordable and easier to procure. Currently, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has teamed up with the Ateneo de Manila University and Duke-National University of Singapore in an ongoing project which studies the effectiveness of certain components of virgin coconut oil against viruses. This is a remarkable start.
I therefore strongly encourage our scientists to begin studies on finding an effective drug that could cure this disease or vaccines that could attenuate the virus. In return, I strongly call for government support to our researchers and health experts. I also seek the support of our public and private sectors in highlighting the potential of research and development and the capability of our experts in contributing to the global efforts to combat this disease.