The ominous news of major hospitals being filled with surging numbers of COVID-19 cases is all too familiar.
Just like March 2020, cases are averaging at an all-time high, though now at around a thousand per day.
However, it is not just private hospitals that are exceeding capacity, but also designated treatment facilities in Metro Manila and Cebu.
At this rate, it seems that the Philippines is right back where it started, or perhaps even worse than before the enhanced community quarantine.
Back in March, testing capacity was inadequate to detect and control clusters of symptomatic infections.
Today, the amount of tests conducted per day is still less than the promised 30,000.
In addition, despite more evidence towards asymptomatic transmission, testing remains slow and inefficent for patients without symptoms.
Prioritization and the lack of surplus capacity remains a significant hurdle that hampers the right to health of individuals who truly ought to be tested.
Contact tracing remains to be troubled by poor data management and the lack of resources, leaving the population all the more vulnerable to the incessant spread of SARS-CoV-2.
In a feeble attempt to defend itself, the DOH claimed that at this stage of a pandemic, contact tracing is of lesser use.
Instead of using the science to vindicate failings, the evidence should be maximized in futhering a proactive response.
Threatening the security and human rights of individuals, of patients, is clearly not part of these approaches.
Quarantine and isolation are essential parts of a pandemic response. These must be done efficiently yet with an understanding of local communities.
Behaviors and narratives on health are not fixed, but rather adaptations to a system where it is not the foremost priority; proper housing and access to potable water have been revealed by this pandemic to be rights not to be taken for granted.
Apart from the necessary treatment for overt symptoms, mental health and social engagement must be ensured to truly have an effective quarantine.
The present situation is nowhere near a ‘new normal,’ as this present wave shows no signs of abating.
The frontlines should continue to be strengthened, but not just in the hospitals, but the communites that provide first contact and holistic care.
This remains one of the most neglected part of the healthcare system that has been glaring before and during this pandemic.
Adequate funding and attention must be given in preventing disease and its possible complications, not just solely treating COVID-19.
After all the loans, just how much has been alotted for the people’s health?
It is unavoidable that mistakes may be made in the course of managing a novel coronavirus, but there should be no compromise in providing and fulfilling the mandate for the people’s right to health.
This involves treating its health workers and facilities with dignity in order to maintain the integrity of the health care system.
More importantly, it is putting the welfare of the people foremost than any political or economic expediency.
We are all patients in a pandemic, and are not (and should not) remain prisoners to a fragmented health system.
CPRH demands that the same errors must not be made again and again in attempting to mitigate COVID-19.
ECQ attempted to halt the spread of the disease, yet the ensuing dramatic rise in cases across the country revealed its failure to buy any time or opportunity.
What the health of the people needs is proper health solutions that truly address the public health nature of the pandemic and its long-standing social determinants.