By: By: Peter Wallace - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | October 28,2021 - 08:00 AM

I’m going to talk about COVID-19 from a position of ignorance, but with an intelligent, logical mind. So here are some questions I’d like answered, or I think we’d all like answered.

Why is the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) undertaking minuscule pilot testing by opening only 120 schools (out of more than 70,000) when youngsters and fully vaccinated teachers are at minimal risk of infection? The rest of the world has opened its schools. The Philippines has had the longest period of school closures in the world! The damage this has done to the country’s future is incalculable, but it’s huge.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority, the total cost of face-to-face school closure is estimated at P11 trillion in lost wages over a 40-year period (the normal period a person works—I’m way over that with more than 60). Less educated people are less able to compete in an increasingly competitive world. We’ll remain at the bottom in terms of the country’s social and economic standing.

Why are curfews imposed? What sense is there to limiting the number of hours people can be among each other, rather than spreading it out to 24 hours so there are fewer people per hour on the streets? I’ve raised this often before and have seen no satisfactory answer.

Why are we the only country in the world to require these absurd face shields? What incredible medical insights do the IATF members have that the rest of the world’s medical community haven’t discovered?

We have gone from a pre-pandemic growth rate of 6-plus percent to probably under, or close to 4 percent this year, with better recovery in 2022 threatened by extended lockdowns. People have to get back to work and to a near-normal life. The world’s longest lockdown surely has to cease. We lived with deaths from pneumonia (34,251 in 2020), chronic lower respiratory infections (20,553), and respiratory tuberculosis (18,410). Surely, we can live with 9,244 deaths from COVID-19.

Admittedly, the number of deaths ballooned to more than 30,000 this year due to the Delta variant, but deaths have been on a decline since peaking last August, according to the Department of Health. As more and more people get vaccinated, this figure will decline increasingly to fewer deaths than from those other diseases. And we live with those diseases.

Why is the vaccine roll-out still lagging behind even though more vaccines have started to arrive? As of Oct. 26, we have received more than 97 million doses, but have administered only about 56.2 million. The average daily doses administered in the last seven days (Oct. 19-25) was 488,506, well short of the target 800,000 to 1 million jabs per day. Only 25.9 million Filipinos have had the requisite two jabs.

We’re even further away from the 1.5 million daily jabs needed if we were to protect the target 50 million Filipinos by Christmas. An obvious impossibility.

As has been raised by Congress and widely debated publicly, why did the government award more than P11 billion worth of supply contracts to a pharmaceutical firm that was incorporated only last September 2019 with a paid-up capital of P625,000? Worse, local manufacturers who were asked by the government to repurpose their factories to produce medical equipment weren’t then called on to deliver much of their output, because the market was “flooded with low-cost PPEs from China, some of which were substandard,” according to the Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE.

The Philippines has dropped to the bottom of the latest COVID-19 Resilience Ranking of Bloomberg and the COVID-19 Recovery Index of Nikkei Asia. Why?

When are the authorities going to accept that we’re going to be living with COVID-19 for a long time yet? So, a “zero COVID-19” policy no longer makes any sense. It’s time to shift to a “living with COVID-19” policy. A World Bank study shows that lockdowns in poorer countries (and regrettably we classify in that category) could potentially increase deaths rather than diminish them, primarily because of the economic harm.

Isn’t it time to now accept the reality that fighting COVID-19 must be balanced by giving people sufficient income to live on? Getting people back to work must be an equal priority. As explained by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, the National Capital Region ideally should be at Alert Level 2 at the minimum by November to help businesses recover and provide jobs to people.

I’d rather like answers to these questions—wouldn’t you? And what mitigating actions are going to be undertaken to get us back to a (new) normal life as quickly as possible.


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TAGS: COVID-19, face shields, face-to-face school closure, IATF, P11 trillion, schools, vaccine rollout lagging

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