Time is running out

Published August 2, 2020, 10:46 PM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


It’s August 3 today.  Earlier this year, there were “officially” 84,000+ people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in China. Officially, because many dispute that number, and claim it should be higher. But since that’s what they officially released, for this reference, we’re stuck with that number. Well, last week we “officially” had 85,486 individuals infected with the virus. Officially, because the number of people infected is actually higher, but there is a backlog and based on reports, there are a lot more still waiting to be confirmed and processed before being included in the official tally.  Yet, look at China now.  The country is on the road back to recovery.  Yes, recently there’ve been cases of outbreaks, but the swift action taken by their government, and the scientific approach taken has allowed them to hold it at bay. 

But success stories, with New Zealand as a prime example in the world, isn’t limited to rich and developed countries alone.  Right in our own backyard, several ASEAN countries have had relative success in curbing the spread of the virus.  What Vietnam did and continues to do is being studied by other countries (even with the outbreak last week, their swift action taken was very impressive).  But even other countries that are worse off economically than the Philippines are doing better.  As examples, we can cite Laos and Cambodia.  To think, we should be doing better because as an archipelago, there are natural borders between provinces and regions, as compared to other countries in ASEAN.  But with infections hitting over 4,000 last Friday (with a majority of cases in NCR), you have to ask, what are they doing right, and what are we doing wrong?

Is it compliance with wearing a mask?  I don’t think so, based on studies and surveys conducted.  We also have the distinction of having the longest lockdown in the world, so the movement of ordinary Filipinos has been restricted.  Yet, unfortunately we see the Philippines at the top in terms of infections in ASEAN.  This is something I prefer the Philippines was not at the forefront of. 

Despite this, the Philippines is still very lucky.  Normally by this time several typhoons will have already hit the Philippines, and as I mentioned before, evacuations during a storm can potentially cause a surge in infections, where officials and private citizens are not as diligent in following the health protocols.

But even with this relative luck in having fewer typhoons hit the Philippines, we go back to the basics.  That it’s been over six months since the first officially reported infection in the Philippines.  While other countries have a system in place to TEST, TRACE, & TREAT, it feels like the Philippines is still groping in the dark, trying to find the light switch to know where we really are.   That’s a terrible position to be in, especially since some health experts predict that there’ll be 150,000 people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus by the end of August.  If and when that happens, that’s just a few months before the expected second worldwide wave hits later this year. 

As I mentioned before, the efforts of the private sector and the actions taken by the various LGUs is proof that with swift action and science-based decisions, good things can happen.  Added to this is the bravery of the healthcare workers.  But continuing to ask healthcare workers to sacrifice, when there can be changes to make things better, is wrong.

A light at the end of the tunnel for the world is that there are several vaccines in the process of Stage 3 clinical trial testing now.  Based on the estimates of scientists, there can be about 2 billion vaccines produced in 2020 and 2021.  That sounds like really good news.  Until you remember that there are over 7 billion people in the world, with over a billion in China alone.  That means over two thirds of the world’s population will not be able to get a vaccine anytime soon. So, relying on a vaccine is NOT the way to go.  We cannot just hibernate and just wake up when there’s a vaccine.  Life continues EVERY DAY.

To have success while the world waits for a vaccine, we really should go back to the fundamentals.  We need a plan of action.  We also need a strategic implementation plan. For those wondering what that means, I wrote about it last month, and you can read it here: https://mb.com.ph/2020/07/19/whats-the-plan/

Every day more Filipinos are infected, and every day people die because of the virus.  The time for press releases, planning sessions and more talk is over.  Action based on science and data with the corresponding information campaign is needed ASAP. 

Stay Safe.  Stay Healthy.  Please wear a mask properly.