The state of our nation

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How many will be glued to their television sets today to watch the State of the Nation Address by President Rodrigo Duterte is anybody’s guess.

Crowd-drawers in previous SONAs were the fashion trends from congressional representatives and their wives. This time though, only a few dozen officials were invited and if you see the list of those from the House of Congress, many of them voted for the non-renewal of the ABS CBN franchise.

Malacanang promised that among the president’s key message is a detailed road map to recovery.

For that alone, I will listen and hope that there really is concrete program that will bring us out of this mess that the coronavirus may have created but worsened by the actions of this administration.

Despite a ban on assemblies in Quezon City, several groups are expected to continue with their planned protests especially after the Department of Justice affirmed their right to a peaceful assembly.

Well, how can this administration ban gatherings that vow to follow health protocols like wearing of masks and social distancing when they even cram thousands of stranded individuals, including infants and children at the Rizal Coliseum without thought for their safety?

Many of these LSIs will be ferried by busloads to their provinces as soon as their rapid test results come out negative. And that has been a major plan of this administration – bring the people out of Metro Manila through their various balik-probinsiya programs, because hospitals and quarantine facilities there are filled to the brim and government cannot take care of them anymore.

If you’ve seen footages of LSIs they herded in one coliseum, entertained by a military brass band, it is no wonder why the virus is spreading like wildfire. Bringing them back to the provinces with only a rapid test given will surely increase chances of infections in the countryside.

Despite the protocols we have set in motion here in Bacolod and our province, we cannot deny anymore that local transmission has set in.

When you lockdown several communities and institutions, that is not anymore “sporadic” and worse still is that residents in these communities are refusing to be swabbed.

A group of doctors here recently launched an online petition asking the president to place Bacolod again under Enhanced Community Quarantine after last week’s records showed that we are now the highest in Western Visayas and a lot of healthcare workers and frontliners have been stricken by the virus.

In their petition, the doctors are asking for a two-weeks ECQ if only to contain the virus especially since there are only a few hospitals here with “limited capacity and equipment.”

This has been validated over the weekend when several hospitals announced shutdowns of their departments. Riverside Medical Center closed down its ER and Operating Rooms for disinfection and testing of personnel after 15 tested positive and 64 others are awaiting results. Our Lady of Mercy Hospital also shut down their Out Patient Department, same with the provincial hospital in Silay that had to shut down their ER and tested their staff after a doctor tested positive.

“We are just a few steps from being the next epicenter, and we fervently hope that you can help us prevent that from happening,” their petition read, believing that the only way to halt or slow down the local transmission is to limit the movement of people in Bacolod through an ECQ.

But can we survive another ECQ? The people are divided on this especially since many have not even recovered from the previous lockdown. Some are starting to get back on their knees but another round of ECQ may just end their hopes.

Yet, from a medical viewpoint, the doctors’ appeal are understandable because despite the cover-up of some medical institutions of their COVID situation, there are many doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have been afflicted and there are more who reportedly resigned from their duties.

While we have not yet reached the critical point of admissions, when frontliners are the ones who are getting infected, we are in for big trouble.

Among the recommendations from the doctors is setting up a unified protocol for all healthcare facilities. This should have been done ages ago. Hospitals must be transparent of their situation and should consult with the IATF and other facilities on how best they can continue to operate with the utmost care for their personnel and patients.

We are still expecting thousands of OFWs and LSIs trooping back to the province in a week or two. I sincerely doubt that the doctors’ appeal will be heeded by the national IATF as government is ready to return them en masse to the provinces.

So what can we do knowing that our city and provincial governments cannot do this alone? Our health facilities are at the mercy of everyone as well.

We go back to the basics. Each one has a responsibility to heed the call of the doctors without necessitating an ECQ. Stay home, avoid gatherings, wear masks, and pray that we will not become the next epicenter.*

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