Hell bent

"Why leave your lost, confused, and anxious constituencies to their own devices?"

The world faces a common enemy during this pandemic. It is invisible, and in many cases, treacherous. Many of the bodies it attaches itself to are asymptomatic. So they continue to go out, interact with others, unknowingly spreading the virus.

Approaches to contain the virus vary across countries and across leaders. Some countries emphasized personal discipline among its citizens, trusting them to adhere to safety protocols on their own without the need for a lockdown. Many countries shut down businesses for weeks and restricted people to their homes. The economic toll of this action, however, has prompted a demand to reopen to save jobs and businesses. Some leaders have adopted a peace-and-order approach to the health problem, while others have minimized and denied the danger, thus subjecting their people to even greater harm.

Restrictions on movement, however, form only part of the solution to this unprecedented pandemic. A combination of mass testing, contact tracing and isolation and treatment is an essential part of solving the problem. Technology, through numerous apps, also helped contain the spread of the virus.

Here at home, we were disheartened to hear Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque say the national government has no provision for mass testing: “We don’t have a similar program [as Wuhan, where 11 million residents are being tested] and we’re leaving that up to the private sector.”

The resulting public outrage on social media prompted Roque to “clarify” the following day that what he meant was that the country’s goal was to test 1.5 to 2 percent of the population. “Perhaps, what we have to admit is that we are still building up our testing capacity,” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

He added that the government is “hell bent on achieving 30,000 tests per day.”

Hell bent, they should be, in fact they should have been as far back as 3 months ago.

As the national government continues to flounder with the things that need to be done and organized, we can take comfort in the initiatives of some local government units in providing mass testing to their constituents. These are bright spots in governance and we can only look on with envy at their residents who truly get their taxes’ worth. Any attempt by the national government to undermine their efforts during this emergency situation will just be seen as deep-seated insecurity and shameless credit-grabbing.

As for private companies, big corporations that can afford it and that have strong social responsibility values need not be told – they have already begun doing this for its obvious benefits. But this is not the case for all. There are small businesses that are, themselves, financially struggling. And then there are heartless employers who care nothing for their workers’ welfare. What, then, will become of these employees? What, then, of those who are not employed in the formal sector, who live in crowded communities, with local leaders who are slow to act but quick to take offense at criticism?

This battle with the virus will be protracted. We can only beat it once a vaccine becomes available. While waiting for that, we must be hell bent, to borrow Roque’s words, to ensure our national and local leaders do their job instead of leaving their lost, confused, and anxious constituencies to their own devices

Topics: Editorial , Hell bent , Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque , coronavirus disease 2019 , COVID-19
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