By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status in Metro Manila and nearby provinces will be useless without extensive mass testing, aggressive contact tracing, effective and timely isolation, and treatment as well as a fast-tracked vaccination rollout, according to Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate.
Criticizing the recent decision to extend the lockdowns, Zarate pointed out that such a move does not squarely address the problem of rising Covid-19 infections because most of the public and even some local government officials, particularly those in the barangays level, have grown complacent and wilfully disregard the minimum health safety protocols following the opening of selected businesses and resumption of operations of public transportation.
The party-list solon warned that as seen even now after six days of lockdowns, the reimposition of ECQ apparently resulted in “a repeat of the same militarist, inefficient and highly ineffective quarantine policies” that proves it as a “glaring admission by the administration of failure in its pandemic response.”
“Also, the aid that was supposed to be given to the affected people, now on the sixth day of the lockdown, is still nowhere in sight for the majority,” he added.
Apparently peeved by the ineffective response from authorities, Zarate noted how the daily uptick in Covid infections have fluctuated in alarming tallies which reached more than 15,000 new cases on April 2, and again another record high with 12,576 additional cases recently that has brought the total number to an astounding 784,043 accumulated cases including 165,715 active cases.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under lockdown for two weeks from March 29 to April 4 and extended it from April 5 to 11 in an attempt to stem the spread of Covid-19 and its mutated variants.
“The lockdowns were meant to provide a ‘breather’ for hospitals and health-care institutions, which were straining from the deluge of severe Covid-19 cases but this has failed as seen in the continuing increase in the number of infections,” Zarate pointed out.
Aside from the alarming surge of new cases in the past week, the lawmaker noted how social media has been flooded with accounts of Covid-19 patients searching for hospitals outside of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, which could accommodate them.
“Many have died while waiting for admission or proper care, like what happened to singer Claire De La Fuente who died reportedly from stress and anxiety after experiencing difficulties before getting an isolation room where she could have recovered from the disease,” a netizen remarked in social media.
Zarate said that government should expend all its efforts to conduct free government testing that should reach 120,000 to 130,000 per day to identify those infected and effectively isolate them to prevent transmission of the disease to other people.
“At the current positivity rate of the virus, it is more likely that more are already infected but have not been tested yet,” he cited while adding that contact tracing of close contacts should be expanded to at least 37 close contacts.
“More concentrated vaccination efforts should be done in areas with higher infections and the vaccinations should be done fast on front-line health workers and senior citizens. For the government to ensure the continuous rollout of vaccines, it has to get its act together and hurry up with its procurement. This is no time to play favorites or look for kickbacks,” he said. (AI/MTVN)