"Malacañang should listen to the experts."
Much to the dismay of Metro Manila mayors, President Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to keep the megapolis under general community quarantine (GCQ) "with heightened restrictions."
As of this writing, the IATF headed by Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque remained steadfast against the OCTA research team's plea that the National Capital Region (NCR) be placed under the modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Duque himself chooses to be stubborn, dismissing the scientific findings of the University of the Philippines-based OCTA which the DOH warned against in a public advisory issued Wednesday night for potentially causing panic over implications of an ECQ lockdown.
Awaiting the IATF announcement, the DOH issued the statement: “We remind the public not to share unverified sources of information to avoid panic and confusion.”
OCTA, an independent group of inter-disciplinary experts, pressed for what they called a "circuit breaker" to avert the looming threat of the Delta coronavirus variant that plagues India, Indonesia, Australia, and other countries.
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chief Benhur Abalos said most NCR mayors want a stricter two-week lockdown, backing OCTA's proposition to prevent a catastrophic spread of the Delta variant.
Some business groups favor OCTA and the mayors' demand, fearing a more devastating impact on the economy and commerce in case of a metrowide Delta variant spread.
Unfortunately, they do not have the President's ear even as Duque coldly said the IATF would reconsider the local officials' appeal.
The IATF will review the metrics and the NCR risk-classification can still change, Duque said.
The DOH chief said the government does not know where to get the cash aid or social amelioration fund to give to the people in case of an ECQ lockdown.
We cannot help recalling how this pussyfooting DOH chief ushered in a coronavirus outbreak with infected Chinese tourists from Wuhan, China due to his glaring incompetence and public healthcare system’s sickening inadequacy.
Coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan in December 2019 thus its name COVID-19 and spread like wildfire in January to other countries where Chinese tourists went to in droves, including Italy, South Korea, Singapore, United States.
Unfortunately, we did not have a public healthcare system as competent and prepared as those of other countries, and that was three years into the Duterte administration.
We did not even have enough COVID-19 testing kits for Cabinet members, officials and politicians and the expensive RT-PCR testing remains a lucrative business until now.
In mid-March 2020, we were still welcoming international tourists and had the President promoted domestic tourism amid the announcement of the World Health Organization (WHO) of a COVID-19 pandemic affecting 180 countries.
Finally, Duque and company recommended a Luzon-wide lockdown, shutting down the entire economy.
And then, we have the distinction of recording the first COVID-19 death outside China, thanks to Duque and DOH.
Duque and the DOH should not downplay the specter of the dreaded Delta coronavirus threat.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. and his team have done a superb job securing the vaccines from abroad which the DOH almost sabotaged due to negligence early on.
Just like the Armed Forces chief that he was, General Galvez has led the rollout of the government's vaccination program effectively with the goal of attaining the country’s all-important herd immunity.
Duque and the DOH should help Galvez accomplish the mission instead of flooding media with his contrived press releases and photo ops.
It is not too late to prevent an India-like Delta epidemic if Malacańang starts to listen to credible experts like those in OCTA group.
But if not, it is not far-fetched that we reach the catastrophe of a Delta coronavirus epidemic in the country.
And, in such a scenario, the possibility of postponing elections is not far-fetched, too.