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It’s Time to Revisit Our Covid-19 Strategy

The recent spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines should prompt our health authorities to reassess their strategy in battling the pandemic. Learning from the experiences of other countries like China, for one, will intelligently guide us in significantly containing the virus outbreak and reopening the economy at the same time, with lesser risks.

 

The nation has to pause from its current but widespread restrictive quarantine measures. Covid-19 cases are increasing in recent days despite these lockdown measures. Our health authorities, thus, must pinpoint where the great number of cases are coming from, instead of extending the quarantine period even in areas where Covid-19 cases have sharply slowed.

 

Perhaps, we should conduct a “surgical operation” in monitoring Covid-19 cases. Covid-19 will be here for much longer but we can effectively contain it through different tactics.

 

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, for example, can isolate a village or barangay that has reported a spike in Covid-19 cases and impose strict quarantine measures on the subject area. The strict measures should be implemented only in the isolated case. They should not be imposed on a general and wider area, like Metro Manila or a region. Shutting down a wider area or an entire region will lead to an economic collapse, such as what we saw in March, April and May.

 

China’s experience in handling the second wave of the outbreak, meanwhile, will provide us a better input in handling the outbreak.

 

The Covid-19 infection re-emerged in Beijing at the Xinfadi wholesale food market. The Chinese government immediately responded by closing down the market and sealing off dozens of communities around the area to contain the spread. Chinese authorities swiftly conducted mass testing and told residents to avoid nonessential travel. China merely isolated the new virus epicenter and avoided a restrictive, widespread lockdown of the whole of Beijing.

 

The chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the new outbreak had been “brought under control” after swift measures and effective contact tracing.

 

We can do the same here in the Philippines by identifying cluster areas with spikes in Covid-19 cases. Our Department of Health data should guide us in conducting surgical lockdowns. Cebu City, it seems, is now the new epicenter of the virus.

 

Cebu City, as of June 18, had the most number of coronavirus cases with 3,216, followed by Quezon City (2,800), Manila (1,776), Makati City (814) and Caloocan City (802). Cebu City also registered the most number of new coronavirus cases in the past 14 days with 855, followed by Cebu province (253), Manila (222), Quezon City (215) and Caloocan City (96).

 

By isolating communities and reviewing the response of the local government to Covid-19, we can pinpoint the problem, effectively stop the spread of the virus and go ahead in reopening the economy.

 

Italy is doing the same. It has monitored a high number of new cases of Covid-19 in some regions, with Lazio, the region that includes the capital Rome, topping the new outbreak. The Italian government noted the re-emergence of the virus but immediately placed the situation under control.

 

The Philippines has fared better than Italy in handling the spread of the virus but this does not mean we should lower our guard. The virus will stay with us and in the rest of the world unless a vaccine is discovered soon to neutralize it.

 

We are now much prepared to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Our increased testing capacity, the completion of more isolation and quarantine facilities and the declining mortality rate among infected Filipinos are solid proof that the government is making significant progress in containing Covid-19, while allowing the economy to reopen gradually.

 

The government and the Department of Public Works and Highways during the almost 11-week enhanced community quarantine period teamed up with the private sector in building temporary health facilities called “We Heal as One” centers.

 

These facilities are designed to augment medical centers so that only the most serious cases are treated in emergency rooms and intensive care units of hospitals. I must say that these preparations have prevented our hospitals from being overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases.

 

While cases continue to increase, we should note an emerging positive trend. The number of recoveries from coronavirus now far exceeds the number of deaths. The Department of Health reported 268 recoveries and only five deaths on June 17. At the rate the trend is going, we can soon expect recoveries to also outnumber new virus cases.

 

I’d like to be optimistic. We can win this battle as long as we adapt to the emerging Covid-19 numbers. We have to be flexible and find a formula for containing the virus spread and moving the economy forward as well.