Gov’t adviser wary over ECQ in Metro Manila, appeals for self-discipline among citizens

MANILA —While some medical groups are wont to call on the government to reimpose the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila as COVID-19 cases rose to more than 46,000 that weigh down on the healthcare system here, a government adviser expressed caution since the issue of the imposition again of the ECQ is about health and economics.

“May consequences ang magbalik sa ECQ. Kung maaalala ninyo, marami tayong mga kababayang nagutom, walang trabaho, walang kita. So, ang hirap talaga ng lagay ng gobyerno. Hindi ako natutuwa na kailangang magdesisyon sa gagawin dito, kasi health and economics ang labanan. Sabi nga nila, pagnag-ECQ tayo, dadami naman ‘yong mamatay sa gutom” explains Dr. Ted Herbosa, special adviser of the National Task Force on COVID-19 and former undersecretary of the Department of Health (DOH), while giving his views on the call to reimpose the ECQ in Metro Manila in the DZRH Special On Saturday (SOS) program.

(There are consequences to reimpose ECQ. If you remember, we have many countrymen who got hungry, with no work, without earnings. So, it is really very difficult on the part of the government. I am not happy that we make the necessary decision on this, since it’s the battle between health and economics. As they say, if we impose ECQ, those who are going to die of hunger will increase.)

Herbosa said the problem is not easy and it must be discussed while everybody must calm down and find “heal as one solution” in which all must be united to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ang mungkahi ko talaga dapat ang kababayan natin sila na mismo ang magkusa. Stay at home, mag-observe ng minimum health standards, magdisiplina sa sarili, huwag na magrali-rali dyan, huwag na magkalat, magtsimisan sa labas ng bahay, huwag mag-inoman,” he said.

(My proposal really is for our countrymen to do voluntarily. Stay at home, observe the minimum health standards, discipline yourself, do not stage rallies now, do not loiter, gossip around outside of your house, do not binge drink.)

Herbosa said to avoid ECQ, everyone must wear mask, face shield, physical distancing of at least six feet to two meters, do handwashing, disinfect with alcohol, and avoid social gathering.

“Importante na ang ambag ng tao ay ‘yong consciousness sa komunidad, bayanahihan tayo para hindi tayo ma-ECQ. Kasi pagtumuloy-tuloy ang dami, 4,000 o 5,000 at nagging 6,000 a day, ay gusto pa natin mag-ECQ,” he said.

(Important contribution of people is their consciousness to the community, work together so that will not go to ECQ. Because if the increase continuous, 4,000 o 5,000 and it becomes 6,000 a day, we really want to be in the ECQ.)

The DOH has recorded a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases in one day at more than 4,000 on July 31, from 300 to 400 cases a month ago.

Herbosa said the spike in the increase of daily number of positive COVID-19 cases is the result of the ease in people’s movement after ECQ was lifted in Metro Manila.

“Hindi ako nagulat noong nakita ko ang panawagan sa isang press conference na ibalik ang Metro Manila sa ECQ. Kasi, bago pa man dito ang desisyon na continue ang GCQ (general community quarantine) ng Metro Manila, nadidinig ko na itong mga mungkahi ng mga doctor na sana bumalik tayo sa ECQ dahil puno na nga ang ating mga ICU (intensive care unit) at ospital. So, may basehan,” he said

(I am not surprised when I heard the call in one press conference to put back the ECQ in Metro Manila. Because, before the decision to continue the GCQ of Metro Manila, I am hearing these proposals from the doctors who wish to go back to ECQ since our ICU and hospitals are already full. So, there’s basis.)

Herbosa said the burdened health care system must be given some rest if not there will be more deaths.

He said when the bed capacity for COVID-19 patients is increased in hospitals as part of the solution to fight the pandemic, there are patients who are disenfranchise including those with heart, kidney and other ailments who require emergency treatment but cannot be accommodated.

Herbosa said the DOH has assigned a “treatment czar” to consolidate the resources of all hospital in the fight against the pandemic since the hospital capacity had reached above 70 percent which is already above the warning level a week ago.

He said the doctors’ performance in treating COVID-19 patients has improve greatly and the case fatality rate is about 4 percent and not unlike during the start of the pandemic when immediately 30 doctors succumbed to death from the viral disease.

“And now the doctors have learned, they were able to discover what medication and therapy to be given. We have already learned much and we hope the case fatality rate remains low and our countrymen follow the protocols,” Hebosa said.

He said the frontline health professionals and medical workers are already tired because one factor, he added, that even though the government has increased the testing capacity, the infrastructure of COVID centers and mega-treatment facilities, it seems that the well-being of the doctors and nurses were overlooked.

Herbosa said that when doctors and nurses are infected, their close contacts are also quarantined so that the workforce diminished, resulting in the overload of work and “burnout syndrome” which happens when emergencies and death of patients are continuing.

He revealed his co-doctor at the Philippine General Hospital, its spokesperson, is now confined at the ICU for COVID-19.

Herbosa said the frontline health professionals are not only burdened physically but bear the psychological burden as well, being with COVID-19 patients who died since no one but them are present during the dying moments.

He said amidst the call to reimpose ECQ in Metro Manila, he recommends a dialogue between the medical groups and the government in order to hear their sentiments being in the frontline.

“Kailangang malaman natin kung ano ‘yong kulang nila, paano natin sila masusuportahan,” Herbosa said.

(We need to know what are lacking in them, how we can support them.)

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