LISTENING to the weekly ulat sa bayan and IATF meetings, I have yet to hear President Duterte reprimand his men for their failure in distributing the much needed vaccines to the provinces outside of the National Capital Region.
Instead, the president last week turned his ire on the LGUs by asking Interior Sec. Eduardo Año to file charges against them if they delay the administration of vaccines to their constituents. Although it is plain to see, the LGUs do not have any hand in the transport of vaccines.
If millions of vaccines the country received from foreign donors were not transported to the provinces because of disorganized distribution and for reasons they are not telling us, the IATF and the DOH should take the blame, not the LGUs.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated only around 23 percent of its estimated 110 million people since it started vaccinating in the first quarter. In Baguio City, almost 70 percent of its adult population are fully vaccinated, according to Aileen P. Refuerzo, chief of the Baguio Public Information Office. LGUs cannot be blamed entirely for the country’s delay in meeting its vaccination targets. The many reasons for the delay in vaccinations are lack of vaccines and vaccine hesitancy which are not the fault of LGUs. And if there are those who do not want to be vaccinated, the percentage is small.
The fact is most LGUs in the Cordillera are desperate to get more vaccines but their supply is not steady. Some have even suggested that in order to increase the rate of vaccination and prevent the vaccines from going to waste, registration for booster shots should now begin.
In the meantime, it is time we learn to live with the coronavirus as medical scientists continue to improve the vaccines. What the government has been doing was resorting to lockdowns in an effort to stop the transmission of the virus.
The better move, according to doctors and nurses I talked to, is for the government to spend on contact-tracing and swab-testing which is not easily affordable for ordinary wage earners. In the US and Europe, swab-testing is free while it is big business in the Philippines.
Coronavirus reproduction rate has gone down from a high of 1.32 percent last March to 0.52 percent last week, according to Octa Research. But unless the country’s testing capacity is improved by making it free in order to maintain the improvements made, we will continue to move around alert levels and quarantine protocols as ordered by the IATF.
Alert levels that go from number 5 to 1 are quarantine systems that make the businessman happy. What I hear from them is that it is time to loosen health protocols as the holiday season and election nears.
They look at these as opportunities to gain back what they have lost during the lockdowns and provide for the 13th month bonus for their workers. Well, it is good they have jobs and 13th month pay compared to those who are jobless.
But what would stop the coronavirus from transmitting is everyone’s cooperation. Of course aside from wearing facemasks, frequent hand-washing and sanitizing, staying more than a meter away from crowds and being fully vaccinated, it is wise to just stay at home if there are no important things to do outside.
Gallivanting inside a mall which is what people do is non-essential. Then it will soon follow that people will be forgetting their masks and distancing protocols because of the low alert level that businessmen yearn for.
But if coronavirus cases rise again because of our carelessness and permissiveness, then we do not have anyone else to blame but ourselves.