Mass testing to stem the spread of Covid-19
However we call it in the Philippines—Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ, Modified ECQ, General Community Quarantine or GCQ or Modified GCQ, it is still a lockdown in the international parlance. In our place in Navotas City, we had another term, Extreme Enhanced Community Quarantine or EECQ which was implemented from May 6 to 11:59pm of May 15; in other words, it was strictly lockdown. Those with Quarantine Pass issued by Barangay could get out of the house only to buy foods, medicines and other essentials either MWF or TThS, depending in which Barangay one resides. Sunday was strictly Stay Home unless in case of emergency to buy medicine. It was the day to disinfect markets, groceries, public places, etc. Our City Mayor wanted to extend the EECQ due to the continuous rise in the number of covid positive individuals, however, the IATF decided against it. Hence, we are on MECQ as the other cities in NCR.
The first day of MECQ was chaotic. Everybody got out of the house, EDSA was full of vehicles, and so were other main thoroughfares. Malls were full of people, physical distancing was not observed. It is like hell broke loose. We should be worried about the 2nd wave of covid-19. Some individuals thought that since it is Modified ECQ, they can do their things already. The word modified is misleading. It appears that the people just read the topics but never the complete guidelines. Little did they know that there are two or three changes. Both under ECQ and MECQ, it is still 100% stay at home; schools still closed; no public transport, no domestic flights, limited international flights, no interisland travel, skeletal onsite work and others work from home; still with curfew from 8pm to 5am; still with liquor ban.
Some changes are: limited outdoor exercise allowed like walk, jog/run, bike but must wear masks and have 2 meters physical distancing; mass gathering is restricted to a maximum of 5 persons; controlled inbound travel for OFWs and returning Filipinos; and biking and non-motorized transport encouraged.
In our city, some business may be opened; tricycles or pedicabs may be allowed provided that it is limited to one passenger only. Compulsory wearing of mask covering the nose and mouth. Government infra structure projects, mostly flood control and school building projects, will be continued and completed.
Irrespective of how long the lockdown would be, it will not successfully flatten the curve. The covid positive individuals will continue to balloon if mass testing is not done. Mass testing can determine who are the covid positive so that they can immediately be isolated or quarantined and not infect others. Once testing is done by the LGUs, covid positive individuals cannot infect other individuals anymore and the spread of coronavirus will be curtailed.
Pursuant to RA 11469, out of the P246,283 Billion Heal as One Budget from a total pooled savings from discontinued programs, activities and projects, only P1.912 Billion is allotted to DOH as compared to P196,044 Billion to DSWD to cover the social amelioration cash assistance. We are battling an invisible and borderless enemy, a pandemic, and yet the DOH was given a very meager budget. Instead of putting a big chunk of funds to DSWD, Congress should have given more to DOH so that it can purchase the PPEs or Personal Protective Equipment, hazmat suits and medical supplies which are very much needed by the frontliners, especially those working or assigned in the hospitals. The social amelioration project has become the source of corruption and many deserving individuals like the senior citizens and the PWDs or persons with disabilities still have to receive the cash assistance from DSWD.
Then the Department of Budget just released an additional P45.0 Billion to DOH for all health-related requirements for covid-19. We just hope that DOH will set aside a big percentage of the amount to purchase test kits so that mass testing can be done immediately. The experience of South Korea in flattening the curve through mass testing of its population was successful in immediately segregating covid positive from the community.
As long as there is no medicine yet to treat covid-19, as long as there is no vaccine yet to immunize the population, everybody must strictly follow the health protocol – stay at home, avoid mass gathering, observe physical distancing, wear mask properly, wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol.
Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law, Jinky Santiago, the wife of my brother Dr. Roy Santiago and mother of my nephew Rome and niece Ella.