Senators call for ‘war level’ government response vs Delta variant threat

24-Jul-2021 Intellasia | Inquirer | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Several senators on Friday called on the government to take a more proactive approach in curbing the possible surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the more transmissible Delta variant.

Senator Nancy Binay urged the government to “level-up” in its pandemic response as a more potent variant is threatening public health once again amid an “already teetering” economy.

“The virus got deadlier kaya dapat mag-level up ang response ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease) and DOH (Department of Health),” Binay said in a statement.

“Whatever safety nets that we have set since last year is practically not enough. Huwag nating hintayin pa ang pagsipa ng Delta at iba pang variants.

Let’s not wait for a twin crisis to happen start moving,” she added.

She underscored the need for “practicable alternatives and science-based solutions,” as she asked for a faster and a more organised and aggressive response from the government.

‘Medicine cabinet’ attitude

Senator Panfilo Lacson likewise lamented the “medicine cabinet” attitude of the country’s health officials.

“It is sad that as individuals, we have developed this wrong attitude of checking on our medicine cabinets at home only when somebody already gets sick or hurt, when we should always be prepared with making available medicines for common colds, cough, fever as well as unexpected injuries and emergencies,” he said.

“But it is pathetic that our national health authorities are no different, being reactive instead of proactive. Knowing the Delta variant has already gripped India and Indonesia, it seems they have not prepared adequately,” he added.

‘Nothing has changed’

Lacson said “nothing” seems to have changed now from the pandemic response at the beginning of the health crisis when the government refused to immediately close the Philippines’ borders from travellers from mainland China, where the first COVID-19 patient was detected late 2019.

“That said, the first order of the day for the next leader of the country is to scout for a more qualified and better person at the helm of the Health Department, and make sure that business and health don’t mix especially during a time of extreme emergency like the pandemic,” the senator went on.

‘War level’

For his part, Senator Joel Villanueva said the staff complement of government health facilities should be “raised to war level.”

“Most are running on manpower best suited for ‘peacetime’ conditions, not during this pandemic,” he said.

“We’ve spent 16 months fighting this pandemic, and the unseen enemy has been mutating into more dangerous strains,” he added.

Even if government facilities have beds and equipment, “you need personnel to man or operate them,” the senator pointed out.

As of December last year, there were 30,396 nurses in public hospitals and 24,969 in primary health care facilities such as Rural Health Units in towns, Villanueva noted.

“This comes up to about five nurses per 10,000,” he said, adding that the government should provide more funds for the DOH to tap into for a “hiring binge.”

Some 5,008 passers of the nurses licensure examination held earlier this month can ease staffing shortages in public hospitals and other health facilities, according to Villanueva.

The government can also draw from the batch of 1,234 doctors who passed the licensure tests in May.

No to gatherings

Senate President vicente Sotto III and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, proposed restrictions against “superspreader” events such as mass gatherings.

Sotto further pressed the DOH and the IATF to formulate “complementary measures” to prevent a rush of cases caused by the Delta variant.

He also said policy-makers and health experts must be ready in the eventuality that a surge of Delta variant cases break out.

“Aminado po akong mahalagang ituloy natin ang economic recovery ng ating bansa, but it is equally important to make sure that our people are safe from the virus. The public’s good health should be the ultimate target when coming up with response measures,” Sotto said.

Ramp up vaccinations

Binay, as well as Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chair of the Senate health committee, also highlighted the need to ramp up vaccinations in the country.

“Malapit na tayo sa tipping point. Hindi lang naman COVID ang concern ng lahat ngayon we are already full with other things beyond our control. The rising COVID cases continue to strain hospitals, and the new variants will definitely put more stress on our already overburdened public health system,” Binay said.

The Philippine government on Friday expanded its travel restriction on travellers from Malaysia and Thailand in a bid to prevent the entry of the COVID-19 Delta variant. The ban will start on Sunday, July 25 and will last until July 31.

Before this, the Philippines has imposed travel bans on Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman until the end of the month.

Health authorities confirmed there is already local transmission of the Delta variant, with 47 cases so far detected in the country.


Category: Philippines

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