“We stand alone together”

Published April 28, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

OF TREES AND FOREST

By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR

Manny Villar Jr.
Former Senate President
Manny Villar

President Rodrigo Duterte, upon the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases, has announced the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and other “high-risk” areas in Luzon until May 15, 2020. Some regions, provinces, or areas which the IATF considered moderate, and low-risk in the spread of COVID-19 have been placed under a general community quarantine starting on May 1. The latter will see some economic and social activities resume on a limited basis.

It is the right call. While the number of new infections appears to have plateaued in the high 100s and low 200s, we cannot be complacent. This is especially true if we look at other countries that have experienced a second wave of infections. We need to continue what we have been doing since the pandemic started. We need to sustain the fight against this deadly virus in order to protect our people.

The most crucial thing regarding the extension of quarantine is to implement or continue implementing policies designed to wipe out the virus, support our most vulnerable population, and prepare the country for what lies ahead.

First, government needs to continue strictly implementing the quarantine in Metro Manila—the epicenter of the pandemic in the country. People need to stay at home and avoid mass gatherings. This is the most effective way to ensure that transmission will be avoided. I know many have been bored to death staying at home since mid-March but believe me, you’d rather be bored than dead.

Second, the effectiveness of the ECQ can only be assured if we continue to, as the World Health Organization stressed, “isolate, test, and trace new cases to effectively suppress and control the virus’ spread.” We need to efficiently identify new cases, isolate them, test, and perform contact tracing. This has been the successful strategy of countries like South Korea that has allowed them to flatten the curve.

This means that we need to ensure that we have the facilities and capabilities to “isolate, test, and trace”. This was our primary motivation when started working with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the construction firm EEI Corp. to build the Quarantine Facility at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

The Villar Group of Companies turned over the facility—finished ahead of schedule—last April 15 to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Medical Corps who will now manage the fully air-conditioned health facility which will serve patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. The makeshift hospital has 294 patient cubicles, six nurse stations, and six smart houses outside Forum building for the health workers. This, and all the other quarantine facilities in the country should allow our health workers to isolate and test coronavirus patients.

In addition, we have also installed disinfection tents in various hospitals in Metro Manila to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We have completed the installation of the disinfecting apparatus in nine hospitals, namely: RITM in Alabang, Las Piñas General Hospital, Don Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan, Rizal Medical Center in Pasig, Quirino Medical Center, Philippine Heart Center and Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, and San Lazaro Hospital and Santa Ana Hospital in Manila.

As I said in our press statement, we are one with Filipinos in its fight against COVID-19. This is our fight. We cannot win this fight alone which is ironic because fighting the disease requires us to be isolated. I am reminded of the story of the 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne of the US Army, famous for the D-Day landings in World War II. This regiment has as its motto, “currahee”, a Cherokee word meaning “We stand alone together.” In a way, this is a very appropriate motto with what we need to do: physical distancing but united in spirit and desire to triumph.

 
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