Better response pandemic proposed

TWO more House leaders want the Department of Health (DOH) and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to revisit, rethink and reshape the government’s response to the coronavirus disease now that Metro Manila and nearby provinces have been reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine.

Chairman of the House committee on health Angelina Tan and Deputy Minority Leader Janette Garin, both doctors by profession, are suggesting how to improve government’s response to the pandemic.

The two welcomed the President’s decision to heed the call of the medical community to tighten quarantine restrictions.

Tan, a representative from Quezon, said this two-week “timeout” should not go to waste by merely relying on the same strategies that have been tried.

“We need to devise new ways to combat COVID-19. Fully aware of the need to strike a fine balance between protecting health and minimizing economic disruption, I have called upon the IATF to closely consider the adoption of a staggered strategy to reopen the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tan said.

According to Tan, this approach was developed by computational and systems biology professors Uri Alon and Ron Milo from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and economist Prof. Eran Yashiv from Tel Aviv University.

The scheme was featured in the New York Times opinion piece, “10-4: How to Reopen the Economy by Exploiting the Coronavirus’s Weak Spot”. It proposes “10-4” cyclical routine that is built around the three-day window between the time a person becomes infected with the novel coronavirus and the time that person can infect others.

10-4 epidemiological models at the Weizmann Institute in Israel predict that this two-week cycle can reduce the virus’s reproduction number below one and suppress COVID-19 pandemic while allowing sustainable economic activity. Under this strategy, people will go to work or school for four days a week every two weeks, followed by 10 days of home lockdown.

For her part, Garin, a representative from Iloilo, said the reimposition of MECQ needs to be paralled with continuous efforts to curb the virus and its transmission.

“The imposition of MECQ may prevent the possible collapse of our healthcare system and give a little breathing space for our frontline health workers. However, community quarantine is not the sole solution for COVID-19. It needs to be parallel. As I have always suggested, we need a whole of nation approach,” Garin said.

“We have a long-lasting pandemic without a vaccine or a cure yet. What we need to do now is to co-exist with this virus. In winning the fight against COVID-19, we must learn how to live with the virus,” Garin added.

Garin said we need to attack COVID, not just wait for it to show via the symptoms manifested by patients but carrying on testing and immediately isolating the positives while allowing the negatives to help our economy recover.

The Private Sector through Project ARK PCR Initiative has successfully reduced the cost of PCR/ Swab Testing to P1,800- P2,000.

“But we need further reduction because affordability is key to attacking the virus. While the private sector never wanes in wanting to help, aligning with the national government and the LGUs are paramount,” Garin said.

“Isolation centers go hand in hand with massive testing. This should be complemented with a social amelioration fund of P5,000 to P10,000 per asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID patient so they can feed their families while in isolation. Mental and emotional support for those in isolation can be provided by DOH,” shee added.