From Day 1 in dealing with Covid-19, everything boils down to risks. Risk management is the process of minimizing or mitigating the risk.
Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on March 30, 2021.
A year ago, the country didn’t know how to handle and manage Covid-19. The capacities were not there, protocols were still to be defined and instead of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Department of Health becoming the lead agencies, the so-called whole of government was invoked creating an inter-agency task force that practically duplicated the full Cabinet in the effort. The local governments were belatedly integrated into the task force that has allowed the granularity of approach today.
Yes, we did flatten the curve as critics kept denying until they were blue in the face. People sacrificed during Christmas and New Year, but the first quarter of the year was different. The guards were allowed to be lowered, but data were not continually studied to relate the data collected last March to the rollout of vaccines. Contact tracing was slackened and quarantines were not considered and strains grew as we reached March. Filipinos were traveling by air, land and sea, believing the worst was over and hoping that we could visit our family and relatives or just enjoy the near summer breaks. But alas, too many strains were coming from other countries and developed nations were having hard lockdowns to contain the spread. It’s like we don’t move, we don’t spread. But Filipinos are hardheaded, apart from being fatalistic. So, off we go in the process of getting our lives back not minding the impact of our reckless behavior.
Can we defeat Covid-19? Vaccines will if their roll-out is made strategic, based on data we have of more than a year now but no one looked at those data and decided to roll it out equally — everyone getting a portion of the limited stock we have. Our data for a year has identified the areas where the virus infected a lot of people. We knew population density was a controlling factor. The higher the density, the more chances of increased spread. When NCR buckled, the whole country went down. Why? Because the supply chain and logistics are clearly designed for and from NCR. Have we designed a supply chain and logistics moving forward? It would appear not, because the roll-out of the vaccines followed the same chain.
Instead of putting majority or all of the vaccines in NCR, the IATF decided to give everyone a small percentage which cannot be sustained because we have a very limited supply. The Bicol report of returning 7,500 vaccines is damaging because with a very small portion, delivery becomes crucial or else Filipinos end up with a placebo. The data a year ago, if used properly for the vaccine roll-out, could have pinpointed where priorities for vaccination should have been made. Granularity in data could have been by barangay in most compromised area. It would have been easier to attain herd immunity by barangay based on the number of positive cases in the barangay. The higher the positives, the more it should be included in the vaccine priority.
From Day 1 in dealing with Covid-19, everything boils down to risks. “Risk management is the process of minimizing or mitigating the risk. It starts with the identification and evaluation of risk followed by optimal use of resources to monitor and minimize the same. Risk generally results from uncertainty. In organizations this risk can come from uncertainty in the market place (demand, supply and stock market), failure of projects, accidents, natural disasters, etc. There are different tools to deal with the same, depending upon the kind of risk.
Ideally in risk management, a risk prioritization process is followed in which those risks that pose the threat of great loss and have great probability of occurrence are dealt with first.” Clearly, the data of a year ago if continually crunched could have led to: 1) location of specific areas of high positives 2) local specific areas that can be broken down to barangays and streets and 3) containment could have been designed based on street-level risks.
Covid-19 has shown to all, whatever the jurisdictional boundaries, that national government cannot do it alone. It has to get the local governments to lead the implementation because they are on the ground. As I wrote in a previous column, subsidiarity rules and it becomes controlling because the national government does not know the local terrain. The national government should give the needed resources to the local government in a timely fashion so that there is no delay because dealing with Covid-19 is a race against hunger and death. When local government heads are confronted with these twin facts, solutions are needed and paralysis-analysis is not the way to go.
A critical part of the solution at the local level is the role of the community. We cannot throw everything to government. We need to do our part and that is to stay at home if there is no urgency to go out and maintain health protocols. One year of doing this is irritating enough, but we need to take care not only of our family and other people because we do not want to spread the virus (whatever kind it may be). Then of course, there is the hardheadedness of Filipinos and add to that, politicians trying to insert themselves in the frame when it is already tragic enough that we have members of the family, relatives, colleagues at work and friends dying.
A year after, what have we learned? First is the symbol of Covid-19, the mask. “Masks have become a sign of solidarity and shared vulnerability. The mask signifies we are all in this together. Masks have the dual function of protecting myself and you. Masks signify a double consciousness, if you will, of my safety and of yours.” Second, Covid does not care about money. It is the “common good that determines my well-being, not my net worth. Today, my well-being is, literally, tied to how communally other people behave. How much money I have, or had, is beside the point. If we all do this ‘stay-at-home’ thing, if we live with the minimum health protocols, then both our security are strengthened.” Third, “common good is healthier than I, me, mine.” In short, greed has to be controlled, if not eliminated.
And lastly, we have an opportunity to focus on the common good and build a more humane society. Consumer consumption has ground to a halt. We are now listening to scientists and experts explain the new world to us every day. The skies above our polluted cities are blue again. We have an unexpected window now to deal with our destructive ways when it comes to our environment. The impact of income inequality and disparities in health care are now plainly visible. The common good is no longer dictated to us by our leaders but are for all to see, contribute and build on. We just have to work together and set aside our differences for what is due our commons.
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