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Stay Home Today, Work Tomorrow

Our greatest economic resource is our people, and it is important that we protect public health during this most challenging period in our lifetime to secure our economic future.

 

The health of the people, I believe, should come first before the economy. Right now, our best solution is the social distancing strategy adopted by many countries while we are waiting for a vaccine against Covid-19.

 

With a direct impact on the livelihood of millions of Filipino workers, the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and its extension to April 30 would help avert a more serious problem. Studies by medical experts show that Covid-19 would have been more widespread if not for the Luzon-wide lockdown imposed by the government. We saw what is happening in the US, supposedly the nation with the most modern healthcare system, which is now reporting thousands of deaths.

 

To be pragmatic about it, the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines would not just dissipate by April 30 and would likely linger until the third quarter of 2020. The National Task Force against Covid-19 said based on studies conducted by the University of the Philippines and John Hopkins University, the Philippines has not yet seen the peak of the virus spread.

 

The government is implementing social distancing measures and lockdowns to prevent the epidemic from peaking until we are prepared to conduct mass testing, put up more hospital beds, acquire adequate medical equipment for our frontliners, and possibly develop a vaccine.

 

This is why we are converting sports stadiums, convention centers and hotels into temporary healthcare facilities. We are preparing for a situation where hospital beds would not be enough to accommodate infected individuals. We should continue to care for our people in temporary facilities that are equipped for their treatment.

 

Several foreign pharmaceutical companies, meanwhile, are now in a rush to develop a vaccine, which we hope will be available in a few months, not years.

 

There are reports that in Israel, a vaccine being developed by MIGAL (The Galilee Research Institute) can be made available in 90 days. If this is true, countries can start “ring vaccination” by June or July. Ring vaccination is the strategy of providing vaccines to the immediate contacts of an infected individual, which proved effective in containing the spread of Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014 and 2015.

 

This is an extraordinary time that requires extraordinary efforts. Never in history that people are required to stay at home for such a long time. We certainly will survive this pandemic, but this is imperiling the lives of the most vulnerable among us—the elderly, the sick and the most exposed such as our health-care personnel and other frontliners.

 

Our Filipino medical professionals are contributing their share across the world—delivering healthcare services here, and in Singapore, Japan, the Middle East, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States.

 

As we stay home and observe social distancing measures under the enhanced community quarantine, our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, ambulance staff and other medical workers are in the frontline in the fight against the pandemic. We thank and honor them for their sacrifice.

 

In the UK, television host Piers Morgan recognized the “outstanding care” of Filipino nurses for “saving people’s lives” and for “coming here and actually enriching our country and doing an amazing job.” More than 20,000 Filipino nurses are working in the UK alone.

 

Meanwhile, Germany is recruiting more Filipino nurses to augment their hospital frontliners who need to treat coronavirus patients.

 

In the Philippines, we need to take care of our health-care professionals by providing them shelter near hospitals so that they won’t have to walk from their homes when there is no public transportation.

 

Unfortunately, many of them already contracted the disease from their patients. There are reports that more than 250 doctors and nurses in the Philippines have contracted the disease and 12 of them died.

 

In recognition of their heroism, Filipinos paid tribute to the frontliners in the battle against Covid-19 on April 8, which marked “Araw ng Kagitingan.” We applauded our “real-time” heroes as our “simple gesture of gratitude” for their services.

 

For the meantime, let us stay home to stop the virus spread. Baguio City, for one, has shown that social distancing and contract tracing measures worked to contain the spread of the disease, as the “summer capital” reported zero new cases in more than 10 days.

 

I also agree with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that we need to ensure public health first, before restarting the economy. While our frontliners do their risky jobs to protect us, let us stay home today, and work tomorrow.