Despite the increasing cases of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) in Metro Manila and the nearby regions, the Bicol peninsula remains free of the pandemic albeit with a number of persons under monitoring (PUM) and persons under investigation (PUI). As of March 20, the Department of Health (DOH) Region 5 reported 39 PUIs and 97,215 PUMs.
With the influx of travelers from Manila prior to the lockdown and the continuing violation of these travelers to undergo self-quarantine, DOH Regional Director Ernie Vera projects a possible infection of 14% of the 6.1 million population leading to the death of 5% o 306,691.
But while the social media is abuzz with violators of the community quarantine and the mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers, the DOH maintained a zero confirmed Covid-19 case in the region.
On one end, this is a good news. But on the other, this calls for alarm — not unless the descendants of Handyong and Baltog have developed a legendary immunity that could fight a virus more venomous than Oryol’s or at least the saliva of Tambaloslos. The reality is, Bicolanos while claiming to be “uragons”, still remain as mortal as the rest of the Filipinos. And the dreadful reality is: We lack COVID-19 testing kits and therefore we cannot confirm possible cases.
Well, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) claims that we have money, sufficient money, to fight Covid-19 only that we lack the kits. This is compounded by the fact that politicians, mostly high ranking officials and their families and/or staff, compete in the use of the testing kits which could have been used by those who really need them. Worse, these politicians would like to get their results faster than anyone else hence explaining why Mulatto Band lead singer, Joey Bautista, had to die first before learning the results of his test.
Unfortunately, Bautista had a concert in Legazpi City for a birthday party of a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) District Engineer last March 11. His wife, however, though belying reports that he performed in the Legazpi event, did not negate the presence of the singer in Legazpi from March 10-12.
Worse, news in the locality circulated that a driver in the hotel that fetched Bautista to and fro Legazpi airport is now Covid-19 positive — a news that is not valudated yet by the DOH Region 5. And worst, a Covid-19 scare heightened as the list of attendees to the District Engineer’s birthday bash circulated among chat groups showing that these people came from different parts of the region and Metro Manila as well. The list, composed of at least 200 names, also included a family of expats from Italy who allegedly violated the 14-day quarantine rule and attended mass gatherings including the District Engineer’s event.
So what needs to be done?
While we do not want the number of confirmed cases to increase, we need a realistic count and a mass testing especially of those in the list. The problem is, the DOH is opposed with the idea — at least for now, probably because of the limited number of testing kits. Second, regional (if not provincial) testing centers should be set-up and preparations for worst-case scenario be done by designating Covid-19 treatment centers.
On the other hand, everybody should also cooperate and observe quarantine guidelines. To prevent the people from going out, the government needs to provide at least the basic needs particularly of the vulnerable sectors and an assurance to the public of access to these necessities albeit in a regulated manner.
For the national government, enough with the ramblings. Come up with a comprehensive policy that treats every one fairly and not just a couple of privileged sectors. Canadian PriThe funds being boasted should be released and augmented if insufficient. Frontliners, for instance, are complaining not only of the lack of testing kits but more so of personal protective equipment (PPE). Currently, while PRRD boasts of sufficient funds, frontliners and health personnel are appealing for donations for masks and PPEs — notably a clear disconnect between the President’s pronouncements and the reality.
And for those who wanted to earn from this “contagion” as PRRD calls it, the hoarders and corrupt politicians, maybe an interpretation and application of the President’s “The Kit”is necessary. As PRRD, “poetically” pronounced it:
“Kung may birthmark ka—
You are a witch
And you are burned