First line of defense? 'Not doctors, but people staying home'
MANILA, Philippines – In the Philippines' battle against the spread of the coronavirus, medical workers must not be considered as the first line of defense but the last.
Former congressmen Romeo Acop and Francisco Ashley Acedillo relayed this to the Duterte government through a memorandum submitted to National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 on Saturday, March 28.
A copy of the document was sent to Rappler by Acop and Acedillo on Sunday, March 29.
"So where is the main battleground and who are the real frontliners? The answer to the question above is this: It is the person who must choose to self-isolate. It is the family whose head of the household strictly enforces home quarantine and limits its movement, if at all, to one designated person for the most essential of errands or tasks," they said in the memorandum.
They added: "It is the sitio leader, village president, or the barangay captain that enforces both the broad and specific guidelines of ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) within their area of responsibility. They, thus, become our first line of defense."
The call comes as Philippine hospitals are reaching their limit, with more coronavirus cases confirmed by the Department of Health. The most effective way to prevent overwhelming the health system, Acop and Acedillo stressed, is to limit the movement of people.
How can it be done? In the memorandum, the two former congressmen gave recommendations to NTF COVID-19 that focus on persuading people to stay home with consistent communications, and enforcing the lockdown in Luzon and areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.
- Keeping the public informed about the nature of the virus and how they can prevent its spread
- Building support systems at the community level for social relief, information dissemination, and support for health workers
- Sending out messages fit for each community that will promote staying at home and contributing to the country's fight against the virus
President Rodrigo Duterte was recently granted special powers to implement measures that would slow down the spread of the coronavirus in the country, but Acedillo explained that there must be "equal burden on the lowest level of implementation."
Acedillo observed that, so far, the government has been sending the counterproductive message that "the public should follow and not complain."
Instead, they want the government to affirm that "staying at home is heroic too" to encourage households to refrain from leaving home not out of fear, but due to "altruism."
How about people seeking to buy the essentials? Acedillo said they leave it to the government to decide whether the quarantine must be tightened, but he said the authorities must continue to provide social relief, especially for the poor and the minimum wage earners forced to stay at home. – Rappler.com