Sunday, October 25, 2020
Home Op-Ed Columns Opinion on Page One IATF has made our once high-growth country grotesque and insufferable?

IATF has made our once high-growth country grotesque and insufferable?

First word
THE news and reports that are pouring in have made me worry about the picture that we present today before the world amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Now that President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to finally address the United Nations General Assembly, I believe it is high time to correct the excesses of the government’s policy response to the coronavirus pandemic and stop the reign of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Three reports
Consider these three reports that are now circulating around the world.

1. An expatriate, by the name of Doug MacArthur, who just left the Philippines last week, has written a Dickensian tale that contrasts Sweden and the Philippines. He entitled his article: “A Tale of Two Lockdowns: Sweden vs the Philippines.”

He wrote: “We have Sweden that basically got it over with quickly and not without pain, and the Philippines where maybe initial cases and deaths were dampened but is now in a horrible fantasy that could be called ‘The NeverEnding Lockdown’ despite a population that demographically is highly Covid- resistant.”

2.The Agence France-Presse (AFP) has filed a report that says our government has made masks and visors compulsory and citizens are groaning and gasping for breath.

3. A group of doctors and concerned citizens, the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDCph) is pressing for the immediate lifting of lockdowns that were imposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 nationwide.

Face masks and plastic shields
Here is the AFP report:
“In the sweltering heat and humidity, 31-year-old Caitlyn Tojanes grumbles about having to wear a face shield over her mask as she waits in line for her bus in the Philippine capital Manila.

‘It’s uncomfortable. Combined with the long queues it means we get to work already tired and bathed in sweat,’ said Tojanes, whose commute involves three buses and takes several hours.

But she is resigned to the new normal in the Philippines, where it is now compulsory to wear both masks and plastic shields in indoor public spaces and on public transport to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

‘With Covid, it’s up to the people to maintain discipline,’ said Tojanes, who works as a store manager in the sprawling capital of 12 million where most of the country’s infections have been recorded.

‘People should not put the entire burden on the government. We must practice self-discipline.’

‘It’s a big adjustment having to wear a mask and a face shield and having to wash your hands with alcohol each time you touch something,’ said Jeff Langurayan, 31, his voice slightly muffled by the layers of material and plastic over his face.

But he accepts the need for precautions.”

Doctors’ group seeks end to all lockdowns
The 5,000-member CDCph led by former Health secretary Jaime Galvez-Tan called on President Duterte to adopt a national protocol for the prophylaxis and early treatment of Covid-19 as an alternative to community quarantines.

In a unity statement read by Galvez-Tan during the launching of the “#Flatten the Fear” campaign, he said the implementation of a national protocol for early treatment of Covid is an effective, safe, inexpensive and science-based solution to address the pandemic in the country.

“With this solution in mind, we appeal to the President to lift all lockdowns,” he added.

Galvez-Tan said the government should focus its efforts on early treatment and home quarantine for most patients and prophylaxis for high-risk individuals such as frontliners under the proposed plan.

With the adoption of the program, Galvez said the government would no longer have to choose between saving the economy or saving the lives of Filipinos.

Tale of 2 lockdowns
“A comparison of one country with essentially no lockdown and another with perhaps the world’s harshest and longest (indeed, still ongoing and officially called ‘The New Normal’) may be instructive.

We have Sweden that basically got it over with quickly and not without pain, and the Philippines where maybe initial cases and deaths were dampened but is now iin a horrible fantasy that could be called ‘The NeverEnding Lockdown’ despite a population that demographically is highly Covid-resistant.

Rather than joining most nations hell-bent on becoming the first to wipe out an airborne virus by quarantining the healthy, Sweden emphasized personal responsibility, social distancing and good hygiene to slow the disease to ensure medical facilities wouldn’t be overwhelmed. In that, it clearly succeeded.

The Philippines, conversely, took advantage of Covid-19 to become more authoritarian than before, then used that enhanced authoritarianism to crack down hard with practically any restrictions that fertile politician minds could think of. Significantly, where other countries use health officials, America’s former colony of 110 million people has often used generals. ‘War’ metaphors are no metaphors, though the enemy can be debatable.

Yes, much is control for its own sake that would cause even some lockdown advocates to cringe. Much is designed to aid corruption from the top down. The worse off the people, the more foreign aid, the more money for government officials to skim.

That said, regardless of motivations it’s still been a lockdown advocate’s dream. Face masks have been mandatory even outdoors everywhere since April 1 (putting to lie CDC Director Robert Redfield’s claim that masking up for just 1to 2 months could work magic in the US). Masks plus face shields are now mandatory in some areas, despite a lack of evidence of the efficacy of the two together outside of indoor medical settings. About half the population — those below 21 and over 60 — have to ‘stay at home at all times’ except for proven emergencies.

As part of the world economy, Sweden certainly has suffered. Severely. That said, one of the major critics of Sweden’s soft touch towards Covid-19, NPR, admitted that while ‘it is next to impossible to say what effect, if any, the country’s response had on its economy, since there are so many factors at play. It is clear, however, that the Swedish economy has fared much better during the second quarter than many other European economies.’”

A brutal nightmare
But as to the Philippines, “Thanks to an overly strict lockdown which shuttered up to 75 percent of economic activity — but still failed to halt the spread of the virus — the Philippines just posted its worst quarterly economic performance on record, with the economy shrinking 16.5 percent in the three months to the end of June compared to robust growth of 5.4 percent for the same period last year,” as Nikkei Asian Review noted last month.

And, again, the lockdown continues. Not at the original level (though harsher in some ways, as with face shields), but with restaurants and other businesses not permitted to open at sustainable levels, they will continue to go out of business.

The Philippines is essentially imploding — and yet the lightest quarantine level permitted anywhere ensures that many businesses will continue to be unable to make money. Areas once packed with young people every night of the week are ghost neighborhoods. Nobody seems to even be proposing less-restrictive quarantines. So, the situation can only get worse…

The Philippine situation is so extreme that you don’t need peer-reviewed publications with a million mathematical equations and 50 contributors to see that locking down harder, tighter, longer, while destroying the gross domestic product and the mental and physical health of a population is no way to “combat” Covid-19, and that the lockdown advocates’ “dream” is indeed nothing short of a brutal nightmare.

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