Almost two years since COVID-19 pandemic began, the Philippine government has managed to do so much while accomplishing so little. From delaying the closure of borders in early 2020 to the lack of contact tracing and mass testing efforts, attempts at containing the virus have been lackluster; even quarantine protocols don’t seem to be enforced properly. In terms of vaccination, the country hasn’t even reached its target. As of press time, only 54 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated since March 1, 2021. The government’s target was to have 90 million inoculated by June 2022.
From the public’s standpoint, there’s a dissonance between the government’s actions and the needs of the people. Time, money, and power have been misallocated for the sake of economic growth. The government allowed itself to be persuaded by tycoons and political allies to reopen their businesses, easing lockdown restrictions when not even half of the country was vaccinated.
Meanwhile, our neglected health sector continues to struggle while catering to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. Keeping these centers running are overworked healthcare workers whose cries for better support have remained unheard.
But rather than deploying scientists and health experts at the helm of its pandemic response, the Philippines’ is mostly composed of army officers and police chiefs. Brutal punishments and curfews have been put in place of the provision of health kits and information drives—campaigns that could’ve helped people understand the risks of exposure to the virus and the importance of getting vaccinated. It is as if we’re seeing two very different realities play out. For the rest of the Filipinos, the health crisis needs scientists and healthcare professionals to take the lead. For the Duterte administration, the spread of the virus can be solved by militarization.
And even with heightened “security”, the effectiveness of enforcing quarantine protocols was questionable given that reports of quarantine violators floated around, especially late last year. It is one thing to have these measures in place but making sure these are followed and observed is another. Regardless, this lack of mandated enforcement doesn’t come as a surprise, especially when the very people that implement them have attempted to go above the law multiple times.
Amid this mismanagement, the improvement of healthcare services and the public’s access to medical infrastructure and services was blatantly ignored. As of May last year, the Philippine government has loaned a total of P2.74 trillion for its pandemic response. Yet, antigen testing kits and RT-PCR tests that aid in determining who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 remain pricey and insufficient in supply. There’s a need to reiterate that proper funding should be allocated to testing kits so they would be much more affordable and accessible to all Filipinos, especially during a surge. This further calls for the long-overdue implementation of mass testing and effective contact tracing.
The government should also provide a better system for vaccination centers in terms of allocating sufficient resources. The Department of Health can especially learn from the Office of the Vice President’s initiatives for mobile vaccination centers to increase the reach of these measures. In dealing with the pandemic, it’s not the people that should be burdened by cutoff periods and daily quotas. It is the government that should reassess the quality of public service it offers its constituents.
While we hold the government accountable, we must also ensure that we don’t aggravate our own situation.
Disinformation contributes to the growing skepticism surrounding vaccines and to the infamous conspiracy theories such as Big Pharma and justifications for the misuse of ivermectin as a prophylactic. We must also be wary of flashy, misleading content produced by supposedly credible news organizations. Ingesting information without verifying is not enough. We must practice cross-checking information and examining sources.
Protecting ourselves from disinformation can lead to a better understanding that apart from sanitation, a key factor to help us get through this pandemic alive is vaccination. Multiple tests and trials show that vaccines are effective in mitigating the effects of infection. It is vital for individuals to get vaccinated, not just to protect themselves but to protect the public.
Furthermore, limiting the transmission of the virus will lessen its chances of producing even more variants that could slow down or worsen the transition to the next normal. The current speed and breadth of community transmission should be a lesson to all. Now, more than ever, each person must exercise due vigilance in lessening the spread of the virus. We’re far from getting over this hurdle. The protocol of isolating, monitoring for symptoms, and maintaining physical distancing won’t last forever, but we are not yet in the clear.
Because the government cannot seem to hold itself accountable, we are left with the responsibility of taking care of ourselves and ensuring that the next people we will put in power are competent, sensible, and smart enough to get us out of this pit.
Our actions as individuals bear weight on the entire community. As Filipinos, we remain vital in shaping the sociopolitical landscape of our country especially amid the pandemic. The choices we make indirectly affect the people around us and perpetuate a culture of leading by example. Thus, we have to make decisions with others’ welfare in mind. Let us not be like our government officials who only act for the purpose of advancing personal interests.
The same gravity our individual actions have on our fellow Filipinos is the same force we can use to effect change in our country. To end the cycle, we cannot rely on the same caliber of leaders who know nothing but to point fingers.
We know we deserve better governance, medical infrastructure and services, and character. It’s time we realize our impact as a collective.