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Protect us from hazardous persons

With a serious lack of testing kits, the real numbers are feared to be much higher than the 500-plus as of this writing.

TDT

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Personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn to “minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses,” as defined by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In light of the COVID-19 situation, the need for PPE for frontliners is essential. Really, it goes without saying. If we risk our frontliners, we risk all — they are, after all, our defense against a further spread of the virus and our chance to survive the infection.

When COVID-19 hit, the Philippines had the distinction of recording the first death outside of China, its country of source.

Though it happened back in early February, and it was a Chinese man from the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly virus, it seemed our Health department was too slow to react.

It was a waiting game that wasted so much time for preparations we are now only seeing as important.

We could have had weeks to get enough testing kits, enough room for the sick, a solid plan for those in the medical field who are first to have contact with COVID-19-positive cases.

Unfortunately, keeping the balance between sparking panic and mobilizing preparations proved impossible for some of our top officials who addressed rising public concern over the deadly virus with lame assurances.

Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco Duque III gave conflicting statements at the beginning and flip-flopped about some aspects that it left the public uncertain and nervous.

At a time of grave risk such as this, the country needs a strong leadership that will not only ensure an orderly system, but also one that moves efficiently and fast. There is no time to waste.

This inevitably led us to last Tuesday night’s signing of the Bayanihan Heal as One Act, which places the country under a state of emergency and grants the President additional powers for three months.

Though it has given rise to some contentions of possible abuse of power, we are left to ponder “what ifs” — among them the need for funds for the rising needs to tackle the COVID-19 spread; the need for facilities to accommodate the sick; and the need for related services and necessities like transport, food and medical supplies.

The Act gives President Rodrigo Duterte the power to realign “certain funds in the national budget and direct the operation of private hospitals, hotels and transport firms to augment medical facilities and services, among others.”

According to reports, it also “provides for the implementation of a two-month emergency subsidy program for around 18 million poor families affected by the lockdown in Luzon.”

Red tape has no place in this fight against the novel coronavirus, and certainly not leaders who are more concerned about their personal protection over the rest of the populace.

Among other diseases uncovered by the onset of COVID-19, self-interest came out on top, as embarrassingly seen in the need for some top officials to clarify why they had to be tested for the disease despite a DoH policy that only elderly and symptomatic patients may be swabbed due to the lack of kits in the country.

People, quarantined and many uncertain about how they would put food on the table during the lockdown, wondered how some politicians were able to get tests for the disease in spite of being asymptomatic.

In recent reports, Secretary Duque revealed that some “VIP” made direct requests at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the country’s main testing center, to get tested for the virus.

Although he said that some of them did “fit the initial criteria” for testing, the issue still got flak from the public still waiting for the expected “peak” to arise. With a serious lack of testing kits, the real numbers are feared to be much higher than the 500-plus as of this writing.

Also, the disturbing number of medical workers who are now quarantined for having fever, cough, colds and other symptoms of COVID-19 had fueled public ire for leaders deemed to be prioritizing themselves first even as many are sacrificing their own lives to help the sick.

These frontliners are being felled by infections also because of a reported lack of PPE, which turned the heat on another senator who announced that such a thing was “fake news.”

More harmful to our health these days are people who don’t seem to be able to see beyond the masks they have worn from the very beginning.

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