To guide us out of the pandemic, we need the advice of experts

Published June 28, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

In a world where information is readily available with just a swipe of our fingers or tap on a screen, there is also the risk of information overload — different sources of news and updates from various groups or individuals abound, making it hard for us to really determine what is “official” from the “artificial” statement.

It could be recalled that at the start of the pandemic, this was one of the major challenges faced by the government. There seemed to be a lack of communication between the national agencies and the LGUs, prompting confusion among the citizenry. The economic sector was affected the most, as confusing—and conflicting—rules regarding quarantines, lockdowns, mask mandates, vaccine requirements, etc. contributed to indecisive business decisions regarding operations, closures, and employee attendance.

Eventually, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) stepped up, presenting the clearer “Alert Level” classifications to gauge the Covid situation in cities and provinces. But moving forward, and with the entry of a new administration, how would the scenario be?

For a start in a hopefully post-pandemic world, confusion in communication should not happen. The new administration must already learn from the mistakes of the past in order not to agitate further a fragile economy beaten by tumultuous world affairs and skyrocketing fuel prices. The next one would be to implement a strategic communication plan that cuts misinformation, prevents disinformation, and avoids miscommunication. There should be one “voice” to lead us out of the woods and bring us to the end of the tunnel.

In line with this, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion III has announced plans to form an advisory group of multidisciplinary experts to guide the private sector as the country transitions into normalcy after being in a pandemic for more than two years.
“We’ve seen over the past two years how important it is to have experts from all fields guiding us through the pandemic. Experts have credibility with our citizens, and they give advice based on science and data,”

Concepcion said, noting that the initial group would include some of the country’s most respected experts on medicine, public health, economics, and research and data analytics. Some of the names he floated include that of National Task Force Against Covid-19 Special Adviser Dr. Teddy Herbosa, Covid-19 Technical Working Group Chairperson Dr. Nina Gloriani, vaccine expert panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante, UP Manila Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Director Dr. Edsel Salvaña, Philippine College of Physicians President Dr. Maricar Limpin, health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon; OCTA Research fellows Dr. Michael Tee, Prof. Ranjit Rye, Dr. Guido David, and Fr. Nic Austriaco; economist Romy Bernardo, and Go Negosyo lead advisor Josephine Romero.

“People are confused as to what advice to follow. Is it safe to wear masks outdoors? What conditions warrant the raising of alert levels? How come Covid vaccines are not available at the pharmacies? These are very simple questions but there seems to be a need to present a clearer picture of what we can and cannot safely do now,” Concepcion added.

Concepcion said the country should maintain its gains in health and economic recovery over the past two years. “It has been more than two years since our lives and livelihoods have been disrupted by this pandemic. I think it is now time to set a clear path for how the country must transition into a state of normalcy, and encourage people to take charge of their own health.”

This initiative from Concepcion is indeed welcome news as any wrong decision from government would be more painful to swallow by the private sector, demolishing any gains made and making any loss irreversible. The country is beset with problems on multiple fronts and the last thing it needs is more political talk and indecisive pronouncements. Now, more than ever, we need to be guided by science and data as both are objective—they have no color, no bias, and no political fortunes to keep.