Fighting Covid-19 in the Philippines under the rule of the #LawIsLaw

What are the secrets of New Zealand in effectively controlling Covid-19? Apparently, among the secrets are having a leader who is more than a tough implementer done a tough talker; and having government managers who implement the rules rather than the exceptions.

The Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is currently eliminated in New Zealand. Since March, the land of the long white cloud (Aotearoa) has a total of 1,503 cases and 1,452 of these have recovered. 21 died and only 30 are currently being treated. The number of positive cases practically became zero on May 4 and an occasional one case every two or three days thereafter. As such, many are asking: What is New Zealand’s secret to flatten the curve and avoid a second wave of Covid-19?

Apparently, the secret to New Zealand’s success is having a leader with balls. Nope, she is not as tough talking as some male leaders around the world are but she’s a tough implementer doing what she was elected to do. In fact she even demoted her Health Minister (equivalent to the Department of Health Secretary in the Philippines) for violating quarantine guidelines stripping him of his associate finance minister portfolio and demoting him to the bottom of the cabinet rankings. After the Coronavirus crisis is resolved, Dr. David Clark, the Health Minister, is also expected to lose the health portfolio. Clark was reported to have ignored national lockdown rules and drove his family to a beach 20 kilometers from his home.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the Health Secretary has announced that the cornovirus is now on the second wave after it was reported to have flattened on May 9. Accordingly, the first wave happened in January when there were three cases, and the second wave was in March thus confusing the experts and the general public. The Department of Health recalled the Health Secretary’s statement the next day saying that the country is still on the First Wave.

As of this writing, the Philippines has 13.434 Covid-19 positive cases and 846 deaths. Of the total number of confirmed cases, on 3,000 recovered.

But, why the high number of infectation and poor recovery?

The poor recovery can be explained by the health system in the country, and the status of immune system of the people. As we have stated earlier:

In the Philippines, while there are institutions that also offer quality health care, these are not accessible to majority of the citizens. According to studies, around 70% of the population can access only the rural health units (RHUs) — — and these are generally noted for their poor facilities and services.

Is Sweden’s “No Lockdown” Covid-19 strategy feasible in the Philippines?

A significant portion of the population is also poor and could not afford nutritious food and satisfy the proper dietary requirements. As the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted, “one in three Filipino children under five years old are stunted, which means they are too short for their age, while roughly 7 per cent of children are too thin for their height. Moreover, a tenth of Filipino adolescents are now overweight.” 

Aside from poverty, the high infectation can also be explained by Filipino culture — that is, implementing the rule of exemptions rather than the general rule. While the Philippines has a tough talking President, the machoism doesn’t seem to have an impact in controlling the virus. The reason, the country’s Chief Executive in reality has a soft heart to a favored few. A clear example is the retention of Metro Manila Police Chief, Major General Debold Sinas, who was caught in the act celebrating his birthday with a party in violation of physical distancing and crowd gathering guidelines. As the President clearly said, “You can say that the ‘law is the law.’ That is my responsibility. But I will not order his transfer. He stays there.

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The President is just consistent. To date, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the President’s political partymate, is still unpunished for violating his mandatory quarantine. The Health Secretary, who also committed blunder in the first few weeks of the Coronovirus pandemic, was also retained despite the petition of a number of legislators and prominent groups.

But while the law is the law, it is also harsh especially for the opposition and the ordinary people. Fish vendor Joseph ‘Dodong’ Jimeda, for instance, had to face an ordeal for enhanced community quarantine violations. Jimeda, who was trying to eke out an honest living to feed his family was arrested and detained for 12 days for lack of valid quarantine pass.

In a sense, while there are rules and regulations in place to curtail the virus, it is selectively implemented. The law is harsh, but the rule of exemptions to the privileged few applies.

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