COVID-19 assessment, adjustment & action NOW!

Published April 19, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin



The number of COVID-19 cases in ASEAN countries continues to rise.  Of all the countries in the region, the Philippines has the highest number of COVID-19 cases.  As of Thursday, April 16, 2020, there were 5,660 official COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.  Breaking down the numbers:

Country                        Total Cases     Total Deaths      Total Recovered          Population

Philippines                      5,660                   362                          435                        106.7 M

Indonesia                        5,516                    496                          548                        267.7 M

Malaysia                         5,182                     84                            2,766                     31.5 M

Singapore                       4,427                      10                            683                        5.6 M

Thailand                         2,672                      46                            1,593                      69.4 M

Vietnam                            268                         0                            177                         95.4 M

Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal
Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

I’ll be citing some data and numbers here, and it might get a bit confusing, so kindly refer to the table above.  When you look at the numbers above, what’s startling is not only the fact that the Philippines has the most OFFICIAL number of COVID-19 cases, but also the very high mortality rate.  Malaysia was next in rank in terms of COVID-19 cases, but was replaced by Indonesia late last week.  There’s just a small difference between the Philippines and second-place Indonesia, but a big gap over between Indonesia and third place Malaysia.  If the projections are correct, by the time you read this, Indonesia will have passed the Philippines as the country in ASEAN with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

What is more worrisome is the official mortality rate numbers of the Philippines.  There is also the concern that some hospitals might not be declaring deaths as caused by COVID-19, because of non-swabbing of people who died with COVID-19 symptoms.  The only country worse than the Philippines in terms of deaths is Indonesia.  Another stat which is even more worrisome than the infection numbers and mortality rate is the recovery rate.  The world recovery rate is about 23.4%.  Ours is considerably lower.  However, late last week, our numbers significantly improved, and the number of recoveries has now surpassed the number of deaths.

As a whole, what do these numbers mean?  On the surface, the numbers of the Philippines look bad.  We’re way off the mark.  Only Indonesia is doing worse. But more than dwell on the numbers, planners and experts should look at the cause of those numbers.  Why are we doing so bad?  Let’s not only identify the problems, but more importantly, find solutions to it.  THAT’s imperative.

This is where data scientists, statisticians, doctors, and planners come in.They have to look at ACCURATE data.  What’s the cause of these numbers?  To being with, they can extrapolate the data, and cross reference it with information from those in the medical facilities which submitted the data.  We have to get to the bottom of it.  Many experts will say that the coronavirus, or its mutations, will be here for a couple of years.  Now is the time for ACTION with FOCUS.  Productive action necessitates a viable action PLAN.  There has to be sufficient planning on what to do.  SOME suggestions are (listed just a few to get things started):

Short Term –    April-June, 2020

  1. Getting our healthcare workers and frontliners the much-needed equipment they have been asking for.
  2. Provide sufficient healthcare for the COVID-19 patients.
  3. Make sure people who died who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, but were not tested when they were still alive, are tested before they’re buried or cremated.
  4. Due to the high medical cost, some who might be suffering from the virus chose not to go to the hospital, and instead stay home. Some have died.  How do you test those people to make sure they did not die because of the virus?
  5. Looking at and seriously studying the various options available to be used for testing. A combination of PCR Test kits and Rapid Test Kits, to be used by the qualified personnel all over the country.
  6. The IATF should assist the LGUs by issuing a clarificatory statement regarding the use of funds by LGUs to purchase Rapid Tests Kits pursuant to DOH guidelines and protocols.
  7. Implement a national healthcare registration system which allows the government to determine the status of medical personnel, to allow monitoring and determination on how the healthcare community is coping and how to manage deployment of medical personnel. One design was done by Dr. Samuel Yrastorza (my relative).  It would be a good idea to study ideas like this.

Mid-term – 2020-2021

  1. What programs and plans are in place to ensure the healthcare system can handle cases once the lockdown /Enhanced Community Quarantine is lifted and there’s a surge of patients? Based on the proposal by some leaders in the business community, it will be the barangay officials who will have more responsibility in the new phase of the war against the virus.  Are they ready for it?
  2. If a quarantine is to be declared in the future, what are the parameters and guidelines to be followed before it will be imposed?
  3. How will the national government monitor the programs to be implemented by the LGUs?
  4. What structure is in place in case patients are diagnosed later this year or in the succeeding waves?
  5. How is the government going to efficiently implement the stimulus package to re-start the economy, and help businesses get back on its feet?
  6. How do you re-tool factories for industries which may not recover in time?
  7. How do you re-purpose workers to maximize their capabilities?
  8. Is there a plan to order sufficient medical supplies when the expected second wave hits? Many of the countries doing good now had a headstart because they not only planned early, but also placed orders for supplies early.  Plus, it’s cheaper to buy supplies when the demand is not high.

Long Term – 2022 and beyond

  1. We have to ask ourselves..How do you fix the healthcare system in the Philippines?
  2. Is there a system where plans are institutionalized to ensure a more science-based approach to solving problems in the future? A pro-active approach.
  3. I suggest looking at Taiwan as a model we can study. News reports quote the country started to prepare after the SARS outbreak.  Debunking the argument that no country prepared for this scenario.
  4. How do you strengthen the medical community? Not only with supplies, but fostering a stronger educational system to deal with future health crisis?

There are other very good ideas which the medical community has. Important now is not just the planning, but the systematic and strategic implementation of the plans and programs.