Fear the truth, which Francisco Duque III, the Health Secretary, is not telling us yet.
With very few testing kits available, the real number of COVID-19 victims could not be as few as the more than a thousand the Department of Health (DoH) had publicly disclosed over the weekend.
It is highly likely that we are not seeing the true extent of this virus’ reach yet.
There could be a multitude of carriers out there, even before the first case of that Chinese woman was reported — our Patient Zero, followed by her partner, before all hell broke loose.
But is hell with us already? No, it has yet to reach us.
We will count a few weeks more. Or maybe more than a month longer.
The truth we have yet to witness is the faces of doctors, nurses and others at the medical front and second-liners in panic.
They are crying for help — none of which will come from their hospitals, which are now knocking on the doors of government.
Their requests are simple. Just personal protective equipment (PPE) and the fight continues for them.
This is not an easy war for the frontliners. They have to start early and end the day late, if they can still sleep at all.
One doctor summed it all with a hapless address to this writer.
“We are losing our frontliners,” he said.
“We cannot afford to lose another one anymore. One doctor dead means hundreds of patients without one,” he added.
He was not exaggerating. But I will.
The country has a ratio of just one doctor for every 33,000 Filipinos.
Now, let Secretary Duque make his count.
How many doctors have lost their fight when they contracted COVID-19? The DoH does not give the data except the number of lives claimed by the virus.
Health authorities, however, describe the available numbers as just “the tip of the iceberg.” They are just a small fraction of what we are about to see in the next days.
Only about 2,000 tests, however, had been administered by the DoH’s COVID-19 hospitals since the outbreak started.
Several doctors this writer had interviewed faulted the DoH for not being able to prepare well for this contagion.
Some of them called out Duque for not giving President Rodrigo Duterte the real picture when all this had started creeping out of Wuhan in China and straight into the invisible borders of other countries.
Remember the President had assured Filipinos this would not be a big concern for us. But now it is.
The government is now actually looking at big facilities, not to convert into temporary hospitals like China did to successfully contain its own outbreak, but to shelter victims which it expects to double, or triple, even quadruple. Only your deity knows.
We should worry, because we do not have enough of these facilities.
Ask your local government leaders and confirm if they had received communication to transform their offices into quarantine areas.
Because at this point, provincial leaderships are in the hunt for some.
As of this writing, this corner learned about the plans to convert the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex and the Ninoy Aquino Stadium — sites of many athletic battles in the past — into quarantine areas.
The Philsports Arena, where the athletes are quartered, is also likely to be transformed to serve as dropping points for victims who would need to be isolated from their families and communities.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is tasked to look for more.
We have lost our first line of defense.
One doctor described it as “not preparing is preparing to fail.”
Duque had failed himself and the people.
It has become this worse.
Meantime, the DoH still could not afford mass testing.
It is being accused of hiding the real numbers of PUM (persons under monitoring) and PUI (persons under investigation), which the agency delays to be tested because it could not afford it despite the money it had received from the national budget.
Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire is doing well providing the silver lining to the DoH’s failures. Maybe the President would consider giving her the authority to carry on the big fight which Duque could not.
We will rebound from this without him.