Into the third week on a Luzon-wide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, speculation is rife over what the government will do afterward. Some suggest the lockdown will be extended, while others say the government is considering a selective community quarantine in which certain sectors will be allowed to go back to work as a way of resuscitating the battered economy.
It is good to plan, but our leaders would do well to bear in mind the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who advises the White House on the COVID-19 crisis: “You’ve got to be realistic, and you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.”
Given how little we still know about the virus and how to stop it, talk of a partial lifting of the enhanced community quarantine and social distancing guidelines seems premature, at best, despite the huge economic costs that the lockdown has entailed.
Certainly, depriving millions of people of their livelihood carries not only a huge economic price, but a political cost as well that is not lost on our leaders. People must eventually go back to work to put food on the table. How soon they can safely do this is a matter of debate.
Amid all the speculation, however, it is gratifying to hear Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesman for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infections Diseases, say: “In this discussion, science is in charge.”
All decision on what comes next over the short term surely must be informed by what is the best course to save lives.
The Philippines recorded on Tuesday its largest daily increase in COVID-19 deaths and infections—538—as it ramped up testing with the arrival of thousands of kits from abroad and the opening of new laboratories.
On Wednesday, eight more deaths took the national toll to 96, while the number of infections climbed to 2,311, with 227 additional cases, the Department of Health reported.
The DOH has opened new labs and run more than 15,000 tests, up from only 3,000 last week, even as more hospitals are seeking government approval to function as testing centers.
Ramping up testing is crucial, because this will let us know the real number of sick people, and the extent of the infections. Over time, testing will also give us a better idea of how the quarantine measures are working.
Hard data and an overriding concern about the need to save lives must trump any wishful thinking about sending people back to work too soon.