COVID Catch-22

COVID Catch-22

A “Catch-22” is defined by Wikipedia in this manner: “This phrase also means a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.” In connection with that, I just discovered that the recent decision of the national government to use “granular lockdowns” instead of quarantine classifications has a “Catch-22” factor that betrays its logic.

During our interview on AGENDA/Cignal TV, I asked Dr. Rontgene Solante for his assessment of the proposed granular lockdowns, considering the DOH recently posted the highest number of recorded COVID-19 positive cases in one day. Dr. Solante’s clinical answer was: If lockdowns are implemented based on high number of COVID positive cases, then it follows that we will have to put the entire Metro Manila under hard lockdown.

No one will argue that the IATF and the national government are trying to find a better way of managing our alarming number of COVID positive cases and some may be inclined to agree that granular hard lockdowns will at least begin to allow mobility and some normalcy in our daily lives. But as defined by the Catch-22 situation, it would be impossible to manage or reduce the cases by opening the gates or lifting restrictions.

On the contrary, the easing up will also make it easier for the virus to go around and spread rapidly. This is proven by the fact that every time restrictions were lifted in the past, especially with APORs or Authorized Persons Outside Residences, cases eventually went up, and after doing these “close-open” strategies, we have reached the state where infections have moved from public spaces and transportation to offices and factories and now the infections are happening in homes with higher numbers of infections than before due to close contacts.

From the very start that government started experimenting with balancing the economy and public health, then trying the NCR-Plus Bubble and inconsistent attempts of granular lockdowns, we already pointed out that the ideas were flawed because the “quarantine models” were compromised or imperfect by allowing APORs and food and product deliveries to continue. I remember saying that we should go for the suggested two-week total lockdown while shutting down all movement and closing all borders into Metro Manila and maintaining those border health checks. But the government decided to be politically correct and please all so they experimented on various models and look where we are.

Try to recall the many times that spokespersons for the IATF/DOH kept reminding and warning us that we should avoid unnecessary travel or going outside because the only way COVID-19 spread was by traveling with people or going piggyback. Ironically, while telling people to stay home, they allowed the worker ants to go out, thereby contracting the virus and bringing it as “pasalubong” to their vulnerable family members.

At a time when we have the highest numbers of reported cases, it is evident that granular hard lockdowns may look attractive for those sick and tired of quarantines. It may look specific and surgical but it would be the equivalent of putting a million faucets on the wall of a huge dam in order to regulate its volume. The first downpour will surely cause the waters to overflow or breach the dam. The same will happen with COVID-19 granular hard lockdowns.

Unless the government can fully vaccinate every Filipino, many people will still get it. One thing that the government seems to ignore or avoid is the hard truth that 35 percent of the population are UNVACCINATED children 18 years and below. Even if you argue that the target herd immunity is only for Metro Manila, it still means that a big number are unvaccinated and that they are vulnerable and if they are resistant, then they are potential carriers.

Unless we up our game in implementing a real national mobile phone-based contact tracing and warning system about the positive cases in our midst, and unless we spend more money putting up field hospitals and training armies of nurse’s aides, we will not contain the virus in our midst. More people will get sick, contaminated and more people will die.

There are no absolutes in a war against an enemy we can’t see and that keeps transforming and evolving. There are many solutions and suggestions but we cannot use and dump one option every time we face a challenge or something seemingly plausible or practical comes up. In war, we use every means, every person, every strategy at our disposal. We see things through, we accept our mistakes and we deal with lost ground or lost comrades. We call reinforcements, listen and study all possible options but, most important of all, we fight the war together to the exclusion of none.

Politicians and retired generals are losing the war against COVID not for lack of trying but in their failure to cooperate and utilize and authorize others to help. There is a saying: “Great minds think alike.” We have many great minds in and out of government, but what needs to happen is for everyone to think alike. We need to agree that the greatest threat to our country and our people is the COVID-19 virus. Until we win this war, trying to be politically correct, compromising battles because of economies and inconsistency in policy and action will be the death of us.

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