There seems to be no end in sight for our collective anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic.
Because although we cooperate with authorities in the pandemic response, the policies don’t add up, don’t contribute at all to improving the situation, or could just be an occasion for somebody to reap superprofits.
Take the requirement for the public to don face shields. From the start, there is scarce or no science behind the wearing of face shield as a public health protocol. Yes, healthcare workers consider them part of their personal protective equipment as they manage patients inside hospitals — but for the rest of the public, there’s simply no science to back its widespread use.
The governemnt’s argument that face shields add extra protection have repeatedly collapsed. They did not deter the coronavirus from spreading, infecting, or killing people. Tragically, no agency of government has been courageous as to question this face shield scam.
Yet another quackery foisted on Filipinos are the personal air purifiers which the Cebu governor recently wanted all Cebu jeepney drivers to wear. Did we hear the Department of Health, the Department of Science and Technology and the national IATF admonish the Cebu governor about this quackery? No.
The high profile promotion of pseudo-scientific measures such as face shields and personal air purifiers obscure the abject lack of scientific response from government vis-a-vis the pandemic.
Of course, we’re referring to what public health experts and health care workers have been preaching and demanding all along: mass testing, treatment, tracing, and vaccination. We cannot do these measures ourselves individually. It is the government that has the resources and the mandate to lead such efforts. But to hide its refusal or inability to do science, their choice has apparently be to do pseudo-science as loudly and as brazenly as possible. In so doing, they transform a pandemic from a public health concern into a personal responsibility issue of simplistically buying and wearing face shields or personal air purifiers that don’t work but are ordered to be worn by government more interested in theatrics.
The World Health Organization’s minimum health protocols exclude face shields and personal air purifiers. They are as unnecessary as they are pseudo-scientific. Countries that successfully controlled the coronavirus did not use them; they used public health measures grounded on science.
The effects of these pseudo-scientific measures could be seen in the daily statistics coming from the government itself. New infections and the positivity continue to rise. Hospitals continue to fill up. Healthcare workers have continued to work 24-hour shifts. The pseudo-scientific measures prioritized by government are making the problem worse by the day.
Even quarantines have lost their intended public health effects. The ECQ in Metro Manila, which is scheduled to be lifted this weekend in favor of MECQ, had become sort of a joke — not so much because of lack of public participation but because the government didn’t take advantage of the time and space to conduct mass testing, tracing, treatment and vaccination. Neither did government provide timely and adequate economic assistance to the people and entrepreneurs of Metro Manila.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Philippines has had only one laboratory capable of genome-sequencing of coronavirus test results to find out which variant is spreading. Yes, only one: the Philippine Genome Center. Hundreds of billions and in fact trillions of public funds had been spent, but no effort had been made to expand its capacity of 750 tests per week.
We do not lack scientists to run a bigger PGC or PGC satellite laboratories in the Visayas and Mindanao. We do. But they cannot build bigger or more PGC laboratories by themselves. We already formed a body, gave it a mandate and the funds necessary to make such decisions, procure the equipment, and build the necessary infrastructure. We call that body the government. Unfortunately, the government seems to be more interested in pseudo-science and other quack ideas.
Then, we hear the president repeatedly complain about the long lines in vaccination centers in a city in Manila, as if to take up the concern of the people regarding the pace of vaccinations. Fortunately, the people know the truth about it:. The supply is simply not enough. Local governments depend entirely on vaccine supplies coming from the national government.
It must be said: There’s anxiety because of officials’ endless drama that obscures incompetence and promotes pseudo-science.