Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Sunday urged President Duterte to take some time off to personally interact and listen to the needs of those in the health care sector who are now sounding a distress call for the government amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Recto made the call following the medical frontliners’ desperate call for a two-week lockdown in Mega Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Mimaropa to enable the government to improve its COVID response.
The medical community had earlier warned it “cannot hold the line for much longer” as they reiterated the need for the government to immediately address the urgent problems of the health care sector, particularly on hospital workforce deficiency, failure of case finding, and contact tracing which they said is “failing miserably.”
“There are good recommendations on how to press the pause button without killing the main economic engine of the nation –Mega Manila. We can defuse this ticking pandemic megabomb without blowing up the economy to pieces,” Recto said.
“The search for this elusive sweet spot begins with this: Mr. President, please make time to personally listen to the physicians. Hear their frontline stories firsthand and without filter. It is time for you to set an appointment with the doctors,” the senator stressed.
Recto warned that if the number of COVID cases in the Philippines hits 100,000 today, “it will sound an emergency alarm that can only be turned off by ringing the timeout bell.”
“Enhanced quarantine that will be borne by the people will only work if there is an enhanced response and help from their government,” he said.
In a letter dated Aug. 1 and supported by at least 80 medical groups, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) suggested putting Metro Manila back to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for a period of two weeks to avoid losing the battle against COVID.
They also asked the government to reconsider the reopening of businesses such as gyms, fitness centers, review centers, Internet cafes, pet grooming services, and drive-in cinemas to prevent the spread of the disease.
Palace spokesperson Harry Roque, in response, said the government will take the advise of the medical community in consideration as they try to balance both the public and economic health of the country.
Recto, however, said it is the government’s job to “manage the side-effects” — specifically the “tremendous whiplash on the livelihood of the people.”
“It is a doctor’s prescription with side effects. But if it will cure the patient and prevent medical personnel from falling ill, then there’s no choice but to follow it,” he said.
“Social safety nets must be rushed because the people’s choice should not be narrowed down to either death by COVID or death by hunger. But for this circuit breaker to succeed, government must heed the doctors’ orders. It must meet the health community’s service and sacrifices with greater resolve and resources,” he added.
“The timeout they are calling for is actually a challenge for government to work double time. The choice, however, is not binary.”