By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — With over a hundred thousand positive COVID-19 cases, the Philippines has reverted Metro Manila and neighboring provinces to a stricter lockdown for the next two weeks but critics say that without changes to the government’s pandemic control strategies, this would be useless.
“The continuing increase in COVID-19 cases is proof that the Duterte government failed in curbing the spread of the virus and in heeding the calls of the people and frontliners. Instead of conducting mass testing, contact tracing, providing medical facilities, and ensuring protection for health professionals, the Duterte administration prioritized curtailing of human rights and their livelihoods,” said peasant group Amihan chairperson Zenaida Soriano.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced the modified enchanced community quarantine Sunday, following calls of medical frontliners for a timeout amid increasing positive cases, overwhelming the country’s health system. Their call, critics say, is an indictment to failed government response on COVID-19 that community doctors and progressives have long been assailing.
Under the MECQ, movement of residents will be limited to accessing essential goods and services while several offices or establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity and at skeletal workforce. With stricter lockdown, however, the poor and daily wage earners will bear the brunt as government social protection remains scant.
Apart from Metro Manila, the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan will be under the MECQ from Aug. 4 to 18.
In a statement, the Citizens Response to End COVID-19 (Cure COVID) said they are both dismayed and frustrated at President Duterte’s response to the pleas of our medical frontliners as it did not address the urgent problems they are facing.
In his late night address, Duterte lashed out at health workers, saying they should “not try to demean government.”
“Then you threaten a revolution. This is our country. You want us to destroy it? Start it now,” Duterte added.
“The President had no basis nor right to scold our medical frontliners who have sacrificed so much already in the fight against Covid-19. Anyone who read their open letter or watched their press conference would know that they were neither demeaning in their attitude towards government, much more calling for a revolution,” Cure COVID said in a statement.
Community doctors and health advocates, from day one, have been calling on the government to conduct mass testing, contact tracing, isolation, and treatment of COVID-19 patients and those they have close contact with. They, too, have called for due social protection for the poor, especially displaced workers and urban poor who have lost their sources of income.
Cure COVID reiterated their call for health secretary Francisco Duque III to resign, and have former military generals who are currently running the government’s main agency handling COVID-19 response replaced.