The data speaks for itself. The Duterte government’s lockdowns slowed down the rate of COVID-19 transmission for a while but failed to reduce it below several thousands daily. It took us a year to reach a million cases but only 4 months to reach another half a million positive cases.
As the country’s GDP continued to plummet, lockdowns aggravated the economic hardships of Filipinos and were ineffective in solving the health crisis in the country.
While Duterte’s addiction to militaristic lockdown as a central policy to the pandemic can pull down the reproduction rate R0 to a certain level, it fails to address the health needs of the people and our economic situation. We are worse off than where we were last year. The 8,147 new cases recorded on July 31, 2021 ended July with a total caseload of almost 1.6M total cases. And it seems the worst is yet to come as many projections tell us that new daily COVID-19 cases will breach five figures in the coming weeks with deaths and misery piling up.
The Philippines is projected as among the last countries to achieve herd immunity in Asia. As of July 2021, full vaccination only reached a paltry 8% of the population.
From one of the world’s longest lockdowns, inadequate testing, and slowest vaccine rollout, the Duterte government is obviously failing to solve the pandemic. The government is always pinning down the issue as an individual responsibility harping on resistance of some to get vaccines and hide the state’s duty to provide adequate health care to its people. Ordering the police to arrest unvaccinated individuals does not help in educating Filipinos about the scientific evidence behind vaccines and even violates people’s right to consent by being well-informed about vaccines. Medical education at the community level is non-existent as the government relies more on coercion.
The government is below its promised 90,000 test per day. Records show the country is conducting only around 50,000 tests per day. To lower the current positivity rate of 15% to the WHO-recommended 5%, based on the latest number of 8,000 cases per day, the government should increase its testing rate to at least 160,000 tests per day.
With the drastic increase of COVID-19 infection, the government again rolls-out another lockdown without a comprehensive approach or a fresh plan to stymie the Delta infection. The government should allot at least P100M into the Philippine Genome Center to increase its sequencing rate of 750 samples per week and strengthen our genomic surveillance. National budget for red-tagging activities of various government agencies should be rechanneled for economic assistance to the basic sectors.
When will Duterte’s pandemic task force ever accept that its response to curb the transmission of the disease is a failure? Government science and medical experts, instead of displaying elitist attitudes by chastising the efforts of private science groups and individuals to make sense of pandemic trends, should promote open and collaborative work with all concerned scientists and health experts in order to seriously address the COVID-19 pandemic in a scientific and humane manner.