ECQ: One Year After

We must all be honest enough to admit that the failures in our COVID-19 response and mitigation is a shared fault between government and the public. This does not mean, however, that both parties are not doing their part in the efforts to curb the spread of the virus. 

March 16 2021 marks the first year since President Rodrigo Duterte place the National Capital Region under "Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ)," wherein strict home quarantine for all households were implemented together with the suspension of public transportation, regulation of provision for food and essential health services and order for heightened presence of uniformed personnel to ensure compliance.

One year from the implementation of the ECQ which spanned for a period of about 2.5 months, the Philippines continues to struggle in containing the spread of the virus due to multiple factors.

Based on the COVID-19 tracker by Reuters, COVID-19 infections in the country have sharply increased, with an average of 3,197 infections reported daily within the last 10 days from this writing. This number represents about 71% of the peak- the highest daily average reported since 16 August 2020.

Both authorities and the public have attributed the sudden increase to several reasons.

The cases of the UK and South African COVID-19 variants, considered as more transmissible variants than the original virus, have significantly increased over the past weeks. As of 5 March 2021, 118 cases of the UK Variant and 58 cases of the South African Variant have been reported. This after the UK and South African Variants were first detected in January and March 2021 respectively.

National government agencies and Local Government Units (LGUs) have also attributed the rise in infections to the purported complacency of the public in following minimum health protocols. Following observed violations, LGUs have recently deployed local police and barangay officials to strictly enforce and penalize offenders where several individuals have either been called out, given violation tickets or imprisoned.

The above reasons are products of policy/programmatic inconsistencies and deficiencies, as well as the failure to procure significant quantities of vaccines in comparison to other countries.

LGUs and several private entities continue to use different contact tracing applications whereas the StaySafe contact tracing app should have been utilized as the national contact tracing application to ensure data and information are harmonized into one platform. This has made contact tracing efforts isolated and disjointed, which may be a contributing factor in the failure to properly contact trace those who may have caught the UK and South African variants upon their entry in the Philippines.

The procurement of supplies for the COVID-19 vaccines have been described by many as "slow", in comparison to developed and developing countries where mass vaccinations have already started. The vaccines that arrived in the Philippines have mostly either been donated by China (Sinovac) or part of the World Health Organization COVAX Initiative that ensures equitable COVID19 vaccines access across all countries. As of this writing, only about 0.1% of the country’s population has been vaccinated with around 44,000 doses of COVID vaccines administered (assuming each pax needs 2 doses).

 

We must all be honest enough to admit that the failures in our COVID-19 response and mitigation is a shared fault between government and the public. This does not mean, however, that both parties are not doing their part in the efforts to curb the spread of the virus. 

 

 

Perhaps, it's time to look at solutions beyond police visibility and practice of self-discipline. A re-examination of our social and political behavior is in order.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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