By Artchil B. Fernandez
“Maliit na bagay ito,” Du30 told Filipinos this week in his weekly show on the surge of Covid-19 cases in the past days. The dismissive attitude of Du30 of the pandemic accurately explains why a year after he placed the country on national lockdown to deal with Covid-19, we are back to where we were before – to square one. Dismissing the pandemic as “a small thing” a year after it ravaged the country is similar to “sampalin ko ang virus na ito,” his initial reaction to it last year. Du30 thinks this horrific pandemic is a joke and this sums up his attitude on the most serious health crisis to hit the country in a century. This despicable and callous mindset of Du30 toward the pandemic is responsible for his inexcusable negligence to deal with the plague. Management by “wishful thinking” best captures his way of handling the pandemic which is a colossal failure.
When Covid-19 reached the Philippines, Du30 trivialized the matter. By belittling the pandemic, Du30 assumed it will go away and disappear soon and things will return to normal. It was wishful thinking and a year into the pandemic the same frame of mind dominates Du30’s thinking, hence his management by wishful thinking of the pandemic.
It has been a year since Covid-19 is wrecking the whole country. Where did Du30’s management by wishful thinking bring us?
On March 15, 2021, exactly a year after Du30 placed the entire country under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the most severe lockdown, the Philippines recorded 5,404 cases, the highest number of daily infections since August 2020. At present, the average daily cases of Covid-19 infection in the country range from 4,000 to 5,000. The Philippines is marking a year into the pandemic with a serious surge and this speaks volumes of the deadly consequence of management by wishful thinking.
The National Capital Region (NCR), the epicenter of the pandemic is now under a uniform two-week curfew to arrest the rising tide of infections. Around 9,000 police and military personnel are deployed in the region to implement the curfew. Local government units in NCR also ordered that children 17 years and below and senior citizens are prohibited from going out, a reversal of earlier policy. It appears the government is placing NCR under MECQ without a formal declaration.
Unless the surge is arrested, OCTA Research warns that daily cases of Covid-19 in the country can reach 11,000 by the end of the month. Reproduction number (R-naught) or the number of people a person positive of the virus can infect in NCR is now at 1.96.
Hospitals in NCR are also hitting full capacity. Six out of ten of the 4,094 isolation beds are now being used by Covid-19 patients there. Forty out of 149 hospitals in the region are in danger of being overrun by Covid-19 cases. Of the 40 hospitals, 18 are in critical situation with 85 percent bed occupancy while 22 are at high risk of being overrun. Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila and St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City and Taguig are now in full capacity. There are many wait-listed Covid-19 patients in the two hospitals illustrating the dire situation there.
A year into the pandemic, the Philippines is still stuck in lockdowns, serious surge, imposing curfew and restrictions, hospitals nearing full capacity and similar problems at the start of the pandemic. There is hardly an improvement in the situation of the country thanks to management by wishful thinking of Du30. Yet, the administration had the gall to rate its pandemic management as “Excellent.” If averaging 4,000 to 5,000 cases daily is “Excellent” for the administration, it is unimaginable what “Failure” is.
Medical health workers on the other hand gave Du30 and his administration an “F” or failing grade in its Covid-19 pandemic handling. “It’s an F, a 5.00, with no remedial or any means to redeem itself,” for Angel Sison, representative of the Philippine Medical Students’ Association in the Coalition for People’s Right to Health (CPRH). Dr. Joshua San Pedro, a co-convenor of CPRH said the government failed to “flatten the curve” and reduce to less than a thousand the average number of new cases per two weeks criticizing the “Excellent” self-rating of the administration.
Du30’s management by wishful thinking of the pandemic also had a devastating impact on the economy. For the first time since the Second World War, Philippine economy contracted by 9.5 percent and recorded its first GDP decline since 1988. There are now 4 million jobless Filipinos and inflation increased for the fifth straight month and is now at 4.7 percent. Outstanding debt of the Philippines rose by 26.7 percent and by the end January 2021 stood at Php 10.3 trillion. The debt is expected to further balloon as the government plans to borrow $ 1.2 billion in 2021. Worse, the budget deficit of the government is Php 1.37 trillion at the end of 2020.
The data from health and economic fronts show a scary and gloomy prospect for the Philippines. Worsening health situation coupled with economic ruin is where the Philippines today, a year after Covid-19 struck the country. This is the result of a lazy, incompetent and inept leadership whose handling of the pandemic is anchored on management by wishful thinking.
Meanwhile, Philippine neighbors are performing better than the country in pandemic handling. The Philippines is the only country in ASEAN having serious surge of infections at present. While the Philippines is imposing curfews, Vietnam recently announced it will make available its locally made Covid-19 vaccine, Nanocovax, by the fourth quarter of the year. Leadership does matter in times of grave crisis and this is the biggest problem of the country today – it is being tormented by a wishful thinking leader.