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ROUGH CUTS | Our assumptions could be wrong




Vic N. Sumalinog

SOME months back when Cebu (province and cities) got notoriously famous because of the high incidence of COVID-19 infections on a daily basis, we kept messaging our son who now lives there with his family to exercise extreme care.

Yes, we kept reminding him to avoid going out of the house on unnecessary trips for fear that he or any member of his family becomes part of the Cebu COVID statistics.

Then came the intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte who sent Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to oversee the implementation of the strategies adopted in fighting the deadly disease in that Central Visayas province.

In due time Cebu was lost in the list of top new COVID cases infections. To date, the entire Cebu province continues to enjoy an almost COVID 19-free status. If at all it has cases, these have remained at the single-digit level.

Things change though. Davao City, which at the time when Cebu was agonizing the negative effect of heavy COVID infection, was enjoying a relatively few infections. In fact, it was one reason why Davao City was included in the list of areas whose quarantine status were downgraded to the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) category.

Because of these quarantine checkpoints which used to be numerous all over the city, were abandoned with only the tarpaulin tents left. Except for those checkpoints in the ingress and/or egress in the city many quarantine posts in the barangays were left without manpower doing some temperature checking or validating Food and Medicine pass holders if they were among those allowed to travel on a particular day of the week.

Then the new COVID 19 cases started shooting up daily more than two months ago in Davao City. Suddenly this southern metropolis came to the national limelight with figures of new infections climbing to as high as three digits. It has topped several times in the list of provinces and cities occupying the first five slots.

There were even weeks when the city was No. 1 almost every day. If it goes down it is either on the second spot, 3rd, or 4th. Of late though there were days when it got out of the Top 5 list. However, it shoots back to the top one every so often.

So, these past months, things were reversed. Instead of us calling our son to be extra cautious, it is he who keeps on calling us to be wary of the possibility of infection because our city is experiencing a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases. He keeps on reminding us to stay home and if there are needs to purchase household requirements we just have to request our other son to do the errand for us.

There were even days that our son was ahead in informing us what number is Davao City in the Top 5 list. And while we feel his seeming call a little bit annoying we could only thank our son for his concern for us. But of course, he has every reason to wonder why the President is not sending any outside intervention to help the city fight against COVID. In fact, he asked us once why Cimatu is not being called to come to Davao City when he was seen to be very effective in turning the COVID tide to almost nil in Cebu Province.

We could not give him any answer. But his question left us pondering why indeed no such move has been done by the President when in fact it is his own city that is now experiencing some kind of ignominy from the pandemic.

Meanwhile, we have observed that there are efforts to shift the blame of the spiking COVID-19 cases in Davao City on the alleged laxity of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Infectious Diseases (IATF) with a focus on the Task Force chair Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

This sector of the city population is saying that there is the negligence of the Task Force in having the health protocols it has crafted being wantonly violated by those who are supposed to have it implemented to the letter.

The complaining sector is claiming that this neglect is much more manifest at the Manila airport terminal serving local plane travelers, especially those coming to Davao City. According to this sector IATF is not religiously enforcing the pre-departure swab test and for a negative result as a requirement for the travelers to take the flight.

Moreover, they said, the country’s airlines are not implementing the social distancing protocol inside the airplane. In fact, according to an air traveler from Davao City who often commutes the Davao-Manila-Davao route, he was surprised to see that all the seats were occupied contrary to the 50 percent allowable occupancy rate.

Knowing this person, we could not have doubted his statement. We took his words. Therefore, if that is the case in the airlines concerned, it is apparent that the IATF men and women at the airport are indeed sleeping on their jobs.
But wait.

Has not the IATF given the local government units full authority to undertake measures that the local leaders may think necessary as far as the respective COVID situation in their locality is concerned? And this authority includes refusal of the planes to land at local airports if found violating health protocols mandated by the IATF?

So, if we suspect that the rise in COVID cases in Davao City is primarily due to the laxity of the IATF in having its mandate implemented in airports and other points of departures why can’t the city do its rights provided by the same IATF in ensuring the protection of its people from infection?

Say, if the carriers of the virus are the returning locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning OFWs who fly in without getting swab test, or passengers of airplanes not practicing social distancing, why allow them to land in the city’s airport?

On the other hand, has the city authorities conducted an accounting of all the infected persons starting when the surge of new cases was observed? If they have, how many of those infected are returning LSIs and OFWs? How many of the other positives are traced to have contacts, direct or not, with the LSIs and OFWs that were found COVID positive?

If such accounting has been done and the data cannot support the sector’s assumption, then it is only appropriate that the local strategies of fighting the deadly disease be looked into. After all, it might be possible that it is the implementation of the local scheme adopted that is wanting.

It might just be unfair if we blame others for the upsurge in the infirmities when the problem is actually in us – our own complacency and our erroneous assumption.

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