The surge

By Artchil B. Fernandez


An alarming trend was noted this week. For the first time in five months or since October 2020, cases of Covid-19 infections in the country breached 3,000 a day. The pattern was observed in the first three days of the week. Since then, average daily cases of Covid-19 in the country did not go down below 3,000.

OCTA Research warned that given the current spike of infections, the country is projected to have 5,000 to 6,000 new COVID-19 cases per day at the end of the month.  “Based on the current reproduction number, NCR is projected to have 2,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by March 21 and 3,000 new cases per day by March 31, while the country is projected to have 5,000 to 6,000 new cases per day by the end of March,” the latest OCTA report revealed.

Spike in cases in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the pandemic in the country, is a particular concern, OCTA Research said. The group noted that in the last two weeks, there was a 130 percent increase of infections in the region or 1,025 new daily cases of Covid-19 from the previous 42 percent.

The reproduction number or the average number of persons infected by an individual with Covid-19 increased from 1 to 1.66 in the region. “The last time the region had seen this rate of increase was in July [2020],” OCTA observed. The group suspects that the new variants of the virus may have something to do with the current surge. “This surge is spreading more quickly than the July-August surge, and this suggests the possibility that the surge is driven by SARS-CoV-2 variants,” OCTA reported. “The original strain does not spread this quickly considering the health guidelines in place,” it added. This development is worrisome and a cause of serious concern.

The B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom and the B.1.135 variant from South Africa, which appears to be more contagious, have already entered the country. As of this writing, there are 118 cases of the UK variant and 58 cases of the South African variant in the Philippines. These variants could accelerate the spread of Covid-19 among the populace.

To combat the surge of Covid-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR), the local governments of Manila City and Quezon City are placing several communities in their jurisdiction on lockdown. As a knee-jerk reaction, Metro Manila cities, as a whole, will reimpose curfews. This scenario could be replicated in many parts of the country if people are not careful.

Authorities are quick to blame the usual suspects for the latest surge of infections, the so-called “pasaway.” People are hard-headed, authorities claimed, and placed squarely on these people the blame for the current spike of Covid-19 cases. As a solution, the administration will again deploy police and military personnel to arrest the rising cases of infections.

But it is the incompetence, ineptness, and laziness of Du30 and his officials that are the real culprits not only in the current surge but of the dismal management of the pandemic in the country. Its militarist approach to deal with the pandemic (which was never abandoned) is the heart of the failure of the Du30 administration to handle the deadly pandemic. Instead of putting medical experts – epidemiologists and virologists – in charge, Du30 made generals and military personnel the heads of agencies and government bodies responsible for pandemic response.

Equally to be blamed for the present situation is the colossal failure of Du30 to craft an integrated and comprehensive plan on how to manage the pandemic. Take for example the most basic and scientific way to handle the pandemic – mass testing and contact tracing.  Beyond appointing czars to these important tasks (one of them a military general), nothing was heard on these fronts.

Testing remains a reactive response instead of a pro-active thrust of the government. One year into the pandemic, a national and coherent mass testing program is non-existent. To this day, the government is still blind to the extent of infection in the country. This explains the failure of the government to make an effective response to the sporadic spike infections.

Vaccination has started but the fact that the Philippines is the last country in ASEAN to roll-out the vaccines is a testament to the inexcusable negligence of Du30 in this regard. Du30 further sabotaged the vaccination program of his own government when he unabashedly pimped for the China vaccines whose efficacy and safety are under question and serious scrutiny. As a result of this despicable move of Du30, many health workers refused to be vaccinated after the government forced them into a situation to take the China vaccine. This further undermined public confidence in the vaccines and stoked widespread resistance to vaccination.

Aside from grossly mishandling the Covid-19 response, the present administration is slowly relaxing restrictions and allowed the further opening of the economy. Face-to-face classes are even being pushed by some officials in the administration. These controversial moves of the administration are contributing factors to the current surge.

Now the country is paying a terrible price for the incompetence of Du30 and his officials.  The recent surge of infections that can have catastrophic consequences is the result of the inability of Du30 to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

One year after the pandemic broke out, the global trend is the dipping or decrease of infections. The Philippines on the other hand is bucking the downward trend and the opposite is happening, a surge. Thanks largely to the incompetence of the leadership of the country.