Slow govt response made coronavirus a socio-emotional issue



By Rose de la Cruz


The slow response of government to the coronavirus epidemic—and its initial apathy in fact—have caused the disease to become a hot socio-emotional issue in the Philippines to the point of some netizens calling for President Duterte’s ouster.


What made matters worse is that government—particularly the health and trade departments—did not even exert effort to monitor and regulate the market for the much-needed protective face masks that it later claimed it also had difficulty looking for stocks of face masks.


it must be recalled that the demand for face masks spiked locally when Taal Volcano erupted on January 12 and since then stocks were hard to come by such that citizens, on their own, volunteered to make and supply to the evacuees, volunteers and food/aid donors to the Taal victims. From the volcanic eruption to the Wuhan outbreak, there was no effort from government to check the market of face masks despite angry calls from netizens.


When finally, the President declared a travel ban from the mainland, one death was already reported by the World Health Organization.


The Wuhan issue became a favorite satire piece for netizens as regards the President’s blind obedience to China to the point of risking the people of his country. Thus, animosity and hatred became a common expression over the internet.


What made matters worse is that the internet was abuzz with so much information—fake or real—about the Wuhan viral strain that people already hungered for an official stance from the government but could not get it.




Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo of ACT-CIS and vice chair of the House committee on overseas workers affairs, called for vigilance against the Wuhan virus and against profiteers of face masks, following WHO’s declaration of this diseases as a global emergency.


Hotels, tour operators, tourist buses, airlines, and POGOs should voluntarily go on high alert against the Wuhan coronavirus.


They should proactively protect and monitor their guests, clients, and personnel. 24-hour sanitation and personal hygiene measures are in order.


In-house nurses and first aiders should be on duty. Disease spread contact points like door handles, elevator buttons, railings, and restrooms should be sanitized.


Malls should sanitize their escalators and provide hand sanitizers and alcohol in strategic areas like doors, elevators, escalators and others frequently touched.


Price controls on soap, face masks, rubbing alcohol, bleach and personal hygiene products should be imposed soon, she added.

Full cooperation between businesses and government regulators must prevail.


She also called for vigilance against cybercrime authorities, website hosts, internet service providers, and social media firms must be extra vigilant against proliferators of fake news. Shut down the sites and accounts of the violators.


I appeal to the embassies to issue travel warnings and restrictions to their nationals who recently entered and are entering our country after coming from China.


“I suggest to Malacanang and DOH that the travel entry ban emphasis be on where they come from regardless of nationality. Blanket bans specifying just Chinese would be illogical because what matters is the travelers came from China where the virus is spreading fast,” said Tulfo.


Tulfo also suggested the Department of Foreign Affairs to formally ask the Internatioal that the DFA “formally ask the ICAO and the IMO to tell their members to implement proper containment proportionate to the current status and trajectory of the Wuhan coronavirus spread.”


ICAO is the UN body for civil aviation while IMO is the UN agency for maritime matters.


“Emotional measures would do more harm than good, but protocols based on facts and model scenarios are the rational moves,” Tulfo stressed.



Church’s response


The Catholic church has required the recitation after every mass and circulated on social media an Oratio Imperata against the Wuhan virus saying that despite all human efforts against the disease, “there is nothing more powerful than prayer to protect the people from it.”


The church is also calling for sobriety amidst a looming panic about the disease and asked its flock to pray for those sufferers instead of sowing hatred and fear about them.


Rep, Bernadette Herrera of Bagong Henerasyon partylist is also reminding the people that coronavirus is the enemy and not the Chinese and not China as she also asked the people to rally behind the Department of Health.


Focus on the Wuhan virus, not the nationality of the carrier.


Local governments and hospitals should also coordinate with DOH on contact tracing and informing residents who recently went to and returned from China.


The Commission on Higher Education and Department of Education should also tell all schools, personnel, and students who visited China recently to self-quarantine or if they have symptoms to see their doctor immediately.


All doctors and nurses in the country should be mobilized as part of their sworn duty to protect and take care of the public from threats to health.


“Local governments and hospitals should also coordinate with DOH on contact tracing and informing residents who recently went to and returned from China.”


Travel right is not absolute


AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr pointed out how that the right to travel “is not absolute because it can be constitutionally- restricted in the interest of national security, public safety, and public health.”


Garbin suggested to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines that flights with passengers possibly infected with the Wuhan coronavirus “be diverted to Clark where the Department of Health can set up a large temporary quarantine facility.”


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Thursday, 20 February 2020
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