Robredo: We need to listen to frontliners’ distress call, regroup vs COVID-19

JC Gotinga

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Vice President Leni Robredo urges the government to heed the medical community’s plea for a two-week lockdown to rethink the country’s strategy in fighting the pandemic

Vice President Leni Robredo backed the medical community’s “distress call” urging the government to enforce a two-week lockdown in order to regroup, as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the country.

“Our doctors are sending a distress call. They are asking the government for a timeout to recalibrate, re-strategize, and redirect our policies because our strategy and measures are not working. They are afraid they might be pushed into a situation where they must decide who lives and who dies,” Robredo said in a tweet early Saturday afternoon, August 1.

“The points raised by our doctors have also been part of repeated calls for action, not only from our office, but from experts and even affected sectors. We need to listen, so that we can start rising from this crisis,” she added.

Earlier on Saturday, the Philippine College of Physicians and more than 80 other medical groups sent President Rodrigo Duterte a letter urging him to impose enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Mimaropa for two weeks. The groups said the country needs to “come up with a consolidated plan” because it is in a “losing battle against COVID-19.”

The groups asked that the ECQ be enforced from August 1 to 15, as healthcare frontliners “cannot hold the line for much longer.” They called on the government for urgent action on problems in the following areas:

  • Hospital workforce deficiency
  • Failure of case finding and isolation
  • Failure of contact tracing and quarantine
  • Transportation safety
  • Workplace safety
  • Public compliance with self-protection
  • Social amelioration

On Wednesday, July 29, Robredo released a video message pointing out 8 shortcomings in the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic. She suggested ways to improve the government’s handling of data on COVID-19 cases, testing and contact-tracing, management of stranded persons, getting input from the public health experts, and addressing problems at hospitals and of frontliners.

Left out of administration efforts on the pandemic, Robredo’s office has been running its own programs to assist healthcare frontliners and essential workers. The Office of the Vice President has provided housing, personal protective equipment, and transportation for frontliners. It has programs to help displaced workers earn an income.

“The only way to get through this is to stand together,” Robredo said on Saturday.

DOH: It’s citizens’ duty, too

Responding to the medical community’s letter, the Department of Health (DOH) said it supports the frontliners’ call for proper enforcement of community quarantines to protect health workers.

“But while the government is taking the necessary actions to address the situation, we emphasize that it is also the duty of every citizen to ensure that our health system is not overwhelmed,” the DOH said in a statement on Saturday.

The agency then reiterated its “BIDA Solusyon” program, which urges citizens to wear face masks, sanitize their hands, practice social distancing, and stay well-informed about the health crisis.

“We welcome this opportunity to continuously work with the medical societies and our healthcare workers on a united and strategic course of action to win the battle versus this pandemic,” the DOH said.

“We are currently in dialogue with our medical frontliners to discuss the best steps forward, and in so doing we will ensure to strike a balance among all the important factors that we have to take into account,” the agency added.

Malacañang earlier said that the strict lockdown in past months “has served its purpose,” and it is important to balance public health with “economic health.” The government has instead enforced “localized lockdowns” of specific areas with high incidence of COVID-19 cases.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said earlier on Saturday that the medical community’s input will be taken up in the government pandemic task force’s future meetings.

As of Friday, July 31, the Philippines has recorded 93,354 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 2,023 deaths and 65,178 recoveries. Active cases are at 26,153, the Department of Health reported. –

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.