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WHO: 70,000 Pinoys to be infected with virus if gov’t fails to act

In last week’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Disease meeting, the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines presented the worst-case scenario for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat. Earlier, WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus declared COVID-19 a pandemic and expressed deep concern over what he called the “the alarming levels of inaction” among governments. He said that “all countries can still change the course of this pandemic if they detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response.”

Two Cabinet members and an undersecretary confirmed this WHO forecast in my radio interviews. Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the rapid spread of COVID-19 was “exponential” and if not checked, we would end up like Iran, South Korea and Italy. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the country’s 100 cases could multiply within weeks. In WHO’S model, 70,000 would be infected nationwide and with a 3-to-4-percent mortality rate, around 2,100 to 2,400 people would die. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez also confirmed WHO’s presentation which triggered a vigorous debate among Cabinet members. But in the end, they decided to recommend to the President the highest alert level, or code red sublevel 2. The following evening, the President went live on TV and announced the IATF’s recommendations.

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But what we are seeing today is a confused citizenry bombarded by uncoordinated and multiple messages from different officials of this administration. They say it is just “community quarantine” and not a lockdown. They say they are imposing a travel restriction in the National Capital Region but people are allowed to go in or out provided they can present identification cards and work employment certificates. So who is running the show really?What we need today are government directives that are consistent and based on science and verified information. We should be apprised on where we are and “where we are going” in the government’s war on COVID-19, its impact on businesses and workers, plus its psychological effect on Filipinos. ——-Today are extraordinary times. There is a community quarantine in Metro Manila, with some local governments imposing an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Shopping outlets, movie houses and restaurants in malls are closed, except for supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, clinics and essential products. International and domestic air travel are impractical and pleasure cruises may turn into a shipwide quarantine. Sport events, “sabong” and horse racing are suspended, while casinos, drinking joints, karaoke bars and nightclubs are shut. The religious attend Masses online while Visita Iglesia and other Holy Week activities are closed to the public.

On the streets, soldiers conducting checkpoints at the borders of Metro Manila are armed with thermal scanners to check people for a fever.

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“Social distancing” is impossible in public utility vehicles while the operations of motorcycle taxis have been suspended for a month.

On the positive side, the lockdown has brought families together.

This makes the summer of 2020 very exciting for all Pinoys. Let us all be COVID-19-conscious and enjoy our time with our families. INQ

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