Back to square one

Published July 7, 2020, 10:53 PM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


COVID-19 has taken an immense toll on the country.  We’ve been battling the virus for over four months, but based on the official data being released by the government, it feels like we’re back at square one.  The number of infections has been on an upswing as of late, not only in Metro Manila.  What’s concerning is that more infections have been reported from more provinces, meaning the virus has spread – even as far away as Tawi-Tawi.  You’d think that as compared to our ASEAN neighbors, the Philippines would fare better, considering we’re an archipelago and moving from province to province is much more difficult, compared to other countries like Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, etc.

Yet, as of Monday, the Philippines had the highest number of new cases in the whole Southeast Asia region.  Added to this is the terribly low recovery rate of patients.  As of July 5, 2020, the numbers were (based on WHO data):

Total new cases:  42,254

Active cases:  31,015

Total recovered:  11,942

Death rate:  3% (1,297 officially reported deaths)

Recovery rate:  27%

Posthumous results: 857 (number of people who died before they knew their results)

The death of other countries in ASEAN are:

Indonesia:  5% (3,171 deaths)

Singapore:  less than 1% (26 deaths)

Malaysia:  1% (121 deaths)

Thailand:  2% (58 deaths)

Myanmar:  2% (6 deaths)

Brunei:  2% (3 deaths)

Laos:  0%

Vietnam:  0%

Cambodia:  0%

Compare our recovery rate with the recovery rates of the other ASEAN countries:

Indonesia:  46%

Singapore:  90%

Myanmar:  77%

Malaysia:  98%

Thailand:  96%

Laos:  100%

Vietnam:  96%

Cambodia:  93%
Brunei:  98%

What the recovery rate numbers tell me is that the current situation in the Philippines is already taking a huge toll on the healthcare system as compared to other countries.  Patients are not recovering as fast, and I’d assume it takes time to accept new patients into hospitals.  Specifically in Cebu, there are now waiting lists to be admitted to the ICUs in hospitals.  There are reports of some patients staying in ambulances while waiting to be admitted into the hospitals. 

This is DEFINITELY not what winning looks like.  Far from it.

IMHO, it could be a number of reasons the numbers are spiking.  The natural assumption of many is because the number of tests has ramped up recently.  In the past few days, testing of unique individuals have increased to about 17,000 daily.  A huge improvement since March, but way below the promised 30,000 unique individuals tested daily by June 1, 2020.  So, the surge can’t be solely attributed to increased testing, considering the number of unique individuals tested daily was already around 10,000 just two weeks ago where the number if infections was less than half of the numbers the past few days. 

Could it be that Filipinos have been going out as of late?  It could be a contributing factor as you will clearly see if you get stuck along EDSA on a weekday (during rush hour).  Could it be the sense of complacency of more Filipinos who think the threat of the virus has waned?  That could be a factor, as many have virus-fatigue already.  Could it be due to the lack of a comprehensive strategy in combating the virus by the government?  A comprehensive plan to combat the virus should have been in place since March and the public should have been informed of that plan.

Each and every one of us has a responsibility in making sure we’re all safe and healthy.  This includes not only the private sector, but more importantly the government, which is mandated to ensure the health and welfare of its citizens.  As it stands, the healthcare system in Metro Manila, Cebu and other areas are being pushed to the limit. 

Many will call for action.  But we can’t be headless chickens running around, going nowhere fast.  Never mistake motion for action, which is what many do.  Press conferences and press releases without necessary strategic action will get you on the front pages and nightly news, but it won’t get you any closer to solving the problem.  We need to think and strategize on how best to do better.   We need to make sure we know our priorities and focus on what’s important.  The lives of our loved ones are at stake.

Stay safe.  Stay healthy.  Practice Physical Distancing.  Wear a Mask.