Ramp up medical solutions to pandemic, Zarate asks Duterte admin

Published April 3, 2021, 4:14 PM

by Mario Casayuran

With the possible extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR)-Plus bubble, the Duterte administration should abandon its “failed” militarist approach and instead ramp up more health and medical solutions to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Bayan Muna representative and House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate said on Saturday.        

Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Partylist / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Zarate reiterated his appeal as the  Philippines recorded on Friday, April 2, its highest COVID-19 daily record of 15,310 cases.        

Members of the Interagency Task Force (IATF) on Management of Emerging Infectious Disease were reportedly set to meet with President Duterte Saturday to determine whether or not to extend the one-week ECQ imposed over Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan and Laguna.         

“Without massive free mass testing, aggressive contact tracing, effective and timely isolation and treatment, as well as fast-tracked vaccination roll out, extending the lockdown would be next to pointless as this does not squarely address the problem of COVID-19 infections,” Zarate said in a statement on April 3.         

“It would just be repeating the same inefficient and highly ineffective lockdowns done by the Duterte administration for more than a year now. How can you expect something will change when you keep repeating the same ineffective measures?'” he asked.         

“Also, the aid or ‘ayuda’ that was supposed to be given to the affected people, now on the sixth day of the lockdown, is still nowhere in sight for the majority,” Zarate also pointed out.         

“Extending the ECQ is a glaring admission by the administration na pumalpak ito,  at patuloy itong pumapalpak (that has failed and continues to fail),” he said.          

In his statement, Zarate reiterated that “free mass testing should be done at least four times more per day.” He said the government has to test 120,000-130,000 per day to be able to identify those infected and pinpoint areas where more drastic measures are needed.         

“At the current positivity rate of the virus it is more likely that more are already infected but have not been tested yet,” he noted.         

He also called for the conduct of “expanded and aggressive contact tracing”, saying “the rate of infection now is so fast that the current practice of only tracing 7 contacts of one confirmed positive seems to be very conservative and should be raised to at least 37 contacts.”         

“Such contacts of COVID-19 positive patients should be immediately tested and placed in quarantine, even if they are asymptomatic to avoid further spreading of the virus and they are to be released depending on their test results,” Zarate said.         

The Bayan Muna solon also repeated the need for “effective and timely” isolation and treatment, by fast tracking the construction of  more pop-up quarantine and treatment facilities.          

The government should hire more health workers, provide and open more isolation and treatment facilities, he said. “Health workers should also have their salaries and benefits given to them as soon as possible,” he added.       

Zarate also appealed for faster vaccine procurement and roll-out, saying the “the current rate of vaccinnations is very slow.” He said more concentrated vaccination efforts should be done in areas with higher infections and that vaccinations on frontline health workers, and senior citizens “should be done fast”.                 

He also repeated his colleagues’ call for the provision of the P10,000 “ayuda” or assistance for low-income households affected by the lockdown.          

“After more than a year of lockdown, should the Duterte administration still wait that the number of infected cases breach the million mark before it will decisively act to end its kapalpakan (failure)? Time to end toying, even clowning with the lives of our people,” Zarate said.