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Our War Versus the Bug

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The latest word is that we’re winning it, according to the man leading the chase, retired general Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the National Task Force against COVID 19.

This assessment, we can assume, is based as much on gut-feel as  much as it is on facts on the ground, given the benefit of  his sterling performance in the siege of Marawi City. Among the positive things he factored in were leadership and coordination with the local government units and the private sector.

Set aside the  subjective and zero in on the objective.

Let’s do the math. We now have, as of last Sunday, a total of 14, 045 cases. Of this, 3,249 cases or 23 percent have recovered, 868 or 6 percent have died. In other countries with far worse cases, the recovery rate is around upwards of 80 percent. So if we based our winning on our recovery rate, it may sound a little bit off the mark, comparatively. Unless, we have a different benchmark of measuring our success.   

Take note that we’re into the 9th week of  a national lockdown. The task force has said that 75 per cent of COVID cases are in Metro Manila, 20 per cent are scattered in various parts of the country and 5 percent from overseas Filipino workers.

Of the number of cases, it is said that about 75 percent are asymptomatic, meaning that the bulk of cases may not be in hospitals but are in self-imposed or forced isolation. In other words, about less than 2,000 cases are presumably in confinement, mostly in Metro Manila.  At this point, it is conceivable that the health system and infrastracture in Metro Manila alone is NOT overwhelmed.

Galvez had earlier feared the return of OFWs could trigger a second wave, assuming it hasn’t yet happened as the task force insists contrary to the earlier pronouncement of Health Secretary Fransisco Duque and his cohorts at the Department of Health.

Official reports or statements from Day One appear to be less in details and more in something else, inspiring less confidence and optimism in people who largely prefer  official narratives rather than  unofficial ones — anecdotes, stories and news, both the legit and fake ones.

Again, other countries have paramaters that are wider in scope and just as intelligible. One European country, which should be a model in COVID updating, includes the following in its daily report:   number of  cases, old and new, number of deaths, number of recoveries, number of hospital cases, number of cases in ICUs, number of cases per area, number of people tested versus target, etc.

In short, facts and figures are regularly reported out for public consumption which translates to effective messaging. The salutary effect is public confidence and cooperation, which are critical in this phenomenal war against an unseen but deadly enemy. The opposite happens when government officials contradict themselves, or are found to issue contrafactual data by experts.

If the other countries’ parameters are used for local assessment, we may say we are probably winning some battles, not the war yet, still a cause for optimism. Or authorities know something the general public doesn’t.

The violation of the lockdown rules on social distancing and use of face mask by police officers and other high officials of the land have been treated with a more or less cavalier attitude by no less than the President and other higher officials. In the meantime, lesser mortals are  given harsher punishments. And there are no subsequent reports of the more privileged  or the less fortunate violators contaminating other people.

One, sometimes, gets the impression that either the  COVID cases in this country are more the results of incompetence or our officials are not really serious about the problem.  What emerges is the disproportionate, if not misshapen, propensity of authorities  to use physical  force — threats, veiled and not — rather than  genuine  health care and compassion.

I would surmise that Presidential Adviser Joey Concepcion probably had enough of conflicting and confusing signals and heaped his frustration on the doctors. It’s like somebody irked by someone and kicks his pet dog just to let off steam.  Irrationality triggered by rational thinking.

A case in point: Secretary Duque has erred not only once but more that should have disqualified him for his post and as the leadman in the interagency task force.  Senators had earlier called for his resignation — and that was before he said the Philippines was now on its second wave,  an assessment belied by no less than the agency he was supposed to lead.  If there’s such a thing as leading by default, Duque has earned it with  little effort.            

Another in case point: While everyone is ordered to stay home and shelter in-place,  the opening of POGOs by Chinese operators is  pushed with such urgency as if it were a matter of life or death. And they’ve yet to pay their tax dues, for crying out loud.

In the meantime, China is going its merry and uninterrupted way of annexing more territories in the South China Sea that belong to the Philippines and nary a complaint or comment from the principal architect of our foreign policy.

And confusion —  deception? —  continues on whether to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN with no sign of good faith on the horizon. O what  a tangled web we weave, said one poet, when we first  practise to deceive.

The fact that COVID 19 is a killer with still unknown cure, and no less than the President warning the crisis will linger for a few more years, not months, should be a top-of-mind thing. It becomes really  disheartening, however, when Harry Roque, the Spox, says scientists are like lawyers in that they have different interpretations of facts. It scares one to think that some people are behind bars or dead because of their lawyers who Roque says are like scientists — or doctors, for that matter.

Which then, should bug us more, the virus, or the messenger and their messages? You be the judge.

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