MANILA (MindaNews / 07 July) – As an emergency professional, I was among the very first few even among my colleagues in the profession to be alarmed by and to post about the emerging COVID crisis. But I kept quiet once the crisis became full blown and the media gave it extensive coverage.
However, I’m going back to posting about it because I see alarming trends that are not being highlighted enough – as if we don’t have enough to be alarmed about.
- 10th HIGHEST DAILY NEW CASES IN HE WORLD. Of the 215 countries and jurisdictions around the world with reported COVID cases, the Philippines has the 10th highest, per data released on July 5. I repeat, #10 out of 215 countries and jurisdictions around the world.
We are currently #38 in the world in total number of cases but if the number of daily cases continues to shoot up, expect our ranking to also shoot up.
- VERY LOW TESTING FIGURES. We are very high in new cases but very low in testing. Of the 215 countries, we rank very low at #135, testing only 7K out of every 1M of our population. Now, test is very, very, VERY important because it tells us where there are clusters of outbreak, which areas to lockdown to prevent the further spread of the virus.
But since we don’t know these essential information because we are not testing, we are depriving ourselves this very basic tool to effectively tackle the outbreak. Instead, we are allowing it to fester like an infected wound, content only with dealing the cases that our meager testing is able to uncover. Pretty soon, testing won’t matter once the virus has spread to practically every sitio, every purok, every barangay, every municipality, and city in the country.
If you look at the global data, countries that recognized the importance of testing early on are the ones which managed to check the spread of the virus. On the other hand, countries which did this late are now reaping the tragic consequences, most notably the US with more than 120K deaths. Let us not wait to reach that stage before we really become serious with testing. Our health system does not have the capacity to treat as many patients as the US.
- CARRYING ON AS IF THERE IS NO PANDEMIC. Since the pandemic, last week was the first time I set foot in the capital. The streets probably have 50%-60% of the regular vehicular and pedestrian traffic. But as I drove around, I noticed that many people were milling about on the streets as if there is no outbreak. Many had no mask on. Great.
- DEMOCRATIZING THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS. I have always thought that the Balik Probinsya idea was an excellent way to spread the virus throughout the country. With ballooning COVID numbers in the provinces since the project was started, I was right to think that.
Thanks for reading and spreading the word.
(Zainudin Malang is a lawyer from Mindanao who spent years on deployment in acute emergencies in East Africa and the Middle East. Before that, he was the founding head of a human rights and civilian protection organization in Mindanao and was one of the five members of the peace process monitoring body)