We are in a battle with an unseen enemy — the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Unfortunately, our government structures at the local level are not that ready and this sad truth was revealed when two medical doctors and a lawyer entered Catanduanes, an island-province in the Bicol Region, a couple of weeks ago.
The entry of the three stirred the social media with harsh words hurled at the local officials. This turned to chaos when one of the doctors tested positive with Covid-19 and a social media uproar when President Rodrigo Duterte included Catanduanes in the list of areas where the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will be extended to May 15. This prompted Acting Vice Governor Shirley Abundo and the local health officials to be on the defensive mode and issue public statements on the incident.
But while the social media stir and the ensuing chaos were a bad thing, there are also lessons that we can distill from the same. First, these indicate that the people of Catanduanes are also humans like us, shares fears with us. Who is not afraid of the Coronavirus, anyway? Even the American conservatives who are staging demonstrations against the lockdown are afraid only that they fear more either the curtailment of their civil liberties or their economic activities.
Second, the blame-games and the pin-pointing indicates that the people are also aware only that their information is not enough, or they have selective information. Based on the guidelines, medical doctors and those at the “frontlines” are allowed to travel as long as they show their identification cards. AG Abundo also explained that the doctors are expected to augment the medical personnel in the province.
The lack or selective information clearly points out the third issue — the ineffective information dissemination and education campaign of the local governments. Even the information about the entry came after the fact thus fueling suspicions that the local governments have double standards in implementing the guidelines. If the uproar can be done in the social media, the provincial and local governments couldn’t have tried enough to proactively share the information about the virus, the guidelines and the things that are happening in the island-province.
Lastly, the incident also means that the people lacks trust on the local health system. If there was trust, the people may not care as to whoever enters the island-province. Unfortunately, it is the other way around even if two of the three who entered are medical doctors.
To date, the Covid-19 positive patient is now cleared after a series of testings and the people of Catanduanes are hopeful that by April 30, they will be off the list with extended ECQ. But lessons from this case, however, should not be set aside as these also reflect the situation of most, if not all, the local government units in the country and the behavior of their respective constituencies.