COVID and politics

COVID-19 cases are again on the rise and though we are seeing low digit numbers here, the recent IATF resolution, adopted by the province may compromise what has been wonderfully contained because of the protocols set by the provincial government.

Though our LGUs will clearly save so much from lifting the mandatory swabbing and quarantine of our arrivals, it may get more costly if we see a resurgence of cases in our midst. Especially that it has been reported that the first case of the highly contagious Brazilian variant was detected in an OFW who is from Iloilo.

The new executive order makes travel within Western Visayas free of any requirement and although the provincial government will continue to provide testing at ports of entry, it will solely be on a voluntary basis.

At this point, who would want to undergo the discomfort of the RT-PCR test if it is not mandated anyway? Unless you are one who thinks of the safety of your family and friends and the community in general, I doubt if anyone will go through a new round of nasopharyngeal test when you step foot in our province.

Those coming from outside of Western Visayas will still have to present a negative RT-PCR test that’s valid for 72 hours before boarding but what assurance do we have that it will suffice since we still get reports of positive cases from travellers, be it returning residents, OFWs or APORs?

Experts always recommend that swabbing be done 4-5 days after possible exposure. Our test requirements state 3 days at most. Thus, it is not surprising that we have arrivals who turn up positive after getting swabbed at the port of entry. Now that mandatory swabbing for arrivals has been scrapped, what assurance do we have that those who are coming in are not infectious?

I am not sure about Bacolod City’s protocols but from reports, it was only the provincial government that requires mandatory swabbing upon arrival until the new EO came out over the weekend.

While I am quite elated about the low numbers we have in Bacolod, it may not be the actual picture since they’ve stopped mandatory swabbing a couple of weeks back.

Provincial Administrator Ray Diaz said that they do not really subscribe to the idea of doing away with mandatory testing for arrivals, but they have no choice unless they want to be sanctioned by the national IATF for refusing to follow the agency’s recommendations.

Definitely, it is also understandable to start opening up the economy that has taken a severe hit for over a year now. But in the absence of vaccines, and if there are, they come in trickles, anything is bound to happen. We can only pray that we will not suffer the same fate as before when our health workers were inundated with so much cases.

It is quite unfair for the national government to impose their will on the local governments, especially when a system in place has been working well for the local community.

I cannot even imagine how they will justify minimum health protocols as enough to curb the spread when even Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque is now infected with the virus. Roque was with President Rodrigo Duterte when they visited Dumaguete several days ago.

Although Roque claimed he was within a safe distance from the president, there were TV footages that showed he was clearly just inches behind Duterte. That event happened last Thursday and Roque gave the assurance in his press briefing that he tested negative prior to coming to that event.

The day after the Dumaguete sortie, Roque also went to an event in Ilocos and sat down with officials there. It was his Sunday testing, in preparation for the weekly presidential address that turned out positive and which took him by surprise since he was not feeling any symptoms.

Thus, if his positive result came out yesterday, there is that chance that he may have been infected between his last test and while he was in Dumaguete and Ilocos. Roque asked those that have been in contact with him recently to go on quarantine and that should mean the president and everyone else, including officials in Dumaguete who attended that recent event.

I know health protocols were followed in the Dumaguete event and even media had a field day posting that they had to undergo swabbing before getting allowed to cover. I hope the presidential visit was enough for full coverage otherwise, if they got to interview Roque, they too should go on quarantine now.

Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto is also on quarantine after his driver passed away due to COVID-19. The popular mayor has decided to go on a two-week quarantine even if his test results will be negative just to be on the safe side and protect others.

Yesterday, the country recorded more than 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 and the call for voluntary ECQ is once again encouraged. Health facilities in Metro Manila have been announcing that they are being inundated by COVID cases and there are even intubated cases in emergency rooms since the intensive care units are getting filled up faster than they can release patients.

It is clear that the pandemic is far from over and if we cannot discipline ourselves and help our own community by simply staying home when possible, it may not be long when it comes knocking back on our doors again.*

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