"We are not losing the battle against COVID-19. We lost it already."
Three weeks ago, when Harry Roque was asked about the government response to the pandemic, his answer was “no one could have done anything.” What an answer. Something could have been done.
Other counties in the region were able to do a lot better job in limiting the spread of the virus and this resulted in fewer infections and deaths among their citizens. Why could we not have done the same thing? Now, we are in the worst possible position as the infection rate is going through the roof.
As one prominent doctor said, “we are not losing the battle against COVID-19. We lost it already.”
When it comes to the more transmissible variants of the virus, our neighbors were also able to do a much better job in controlling the entry of the three variants coming from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil. Meanwhile, we failed. These variants are now the ones driving the infection surge. Every citizen in this country is rooting for the government to succeed in its efforts to finally control the spread of this virus. This is because if it succeeds, we can then all go back to our normal lives at the earliest possible time. But we cannot do it if the government pandemic team is going from one misstep to another.
It has been more than a year. By now, one would expect that those officials tasked to make the decisions would have had the benefit of experience together with all the lessons learned from other countries.
It appears, however, that we have not learned anything at all. In the case of the variants, we took our time in implementing travel restrictions and did not implement the right medical protocols. There could not been so many travelers coming from Brazil or South Africa that we were unable to monitor and institute the right control measures. With the daily infection rate now hitting more than 10,000 the last several days, we are beginning to see signs of resignation among the people. They seem to be losing faith in the government’s ability to control the virus. The enhanced community quarantine that was imposed on the National Capital Region and four nearby provinces has been extended for another week in an attempt to arrest the surge. This was a painful decision to make due to its impact on the economy but there was really no other choice. Hopefully, it will bring down the infection rate because so many people are already losing hope.
The country’s morale is also very low which is a big problem. If morale is low, we cannot win the fight against COVID-19. It is therefore, incumbent upon the government to finds ways to restore morale if it wants the people to maintain their faith in the ability of government to lead.
The past year has been very hard on everyone. Pandemic fatigue has set in and the people are tired. But we all have to keep on trying. Now is the time for the President to make some changes in his team. We know that this is not his style, but it is now necessary to do so if he wants to invigorate the country for the next phase of the virus war. Let me say that the government pandemic team is composed of many competent and dedicated bureaucrats. But there are some who have demonstrated their unique abilities of always making the wrong estimate of the situation and thereby worsening the situation. This is the reason why we are now in the situation we are in – down on our knees. By making some changes, the President will be injecting new and more vigorous ideas. Those who are saying that changing horses in the middle of a race is not a good idea are wrong as experiences in the past have shown. Since we are effectively fighting a war and losing many lives every day, changes are inevitable and necessary.
In war, when some members of the team do not measure up, they must be replaced so that the mission can move forward and be accomplished at the least possible cost. A medical adviser to the IATF in an interview was against making changes and cited Brazil as an example. He did not however, explain that our situation is different. What happened to Brazil is believed by many observers to be due to the controversial decisions of its president.
We do not have that problem here. President Duterte for his part always tried following the science in his decisions. The ECQ extension is an example. It’s in his pandemic team that many people are asking for some changes. We hope he will undertake these changes.