In the past month, we've seen so many spikes in new COVID cases. Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Culture Spotlight

A former Health Secretary warns of a COVID resurgence, and urges Filipinos to be vigilant

Former DoH Secretary Esperanza Cabral thinks that we may not be able to control the numbers if we don’t start being more mindful of what we’re doing. BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN
ANCX | Jul 05 2020

Metro Manila is more than a month into the General Community Quarantine, and, if we’re basing it solely from the Department of Health COVID-19 data, it doesn’t look promising. The last two days alone have not been particularly encouraging; Friday’s record-breaking single-day tally was followed up by Saturday’s numbers, which had every region reporting new cases.

Former Secretary Esperanza Cabral, who headed the Department of Health at the tailend of the Arroyo administration, believes this is already a resurgence. “Sayang. There was a point kasi na nag-level off and bumababa na. ICUs were not admitting as many COVID patients. In the hospitals, really the census of COVID patients really started to go down,” she says. “If you look at the data, the resurgence started around the end of May. Kasi in June, GCQ na tayo.”

It’s not only the Philippines as resurgences of COVID cases have been occurring in different parts of the globe. Among our neighbors, we’ve seen resurgences in countries such as South Korea and Singapore. Farther away, this scenario is playing out in the former COVID epicenter of Europe. According to a July 2, 2020 assessment by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), “some countries are reporting a resurgence of observed cases or large localized outbreaks.” The ECDC attributes these resurgences to a few possible factors, including increased testing, increases in transmission associated with the easing of restrictions; large localized outbreaks, or the importation of cases.

"It’s really up to us. We need to practice what we’ve been told to practice," says former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

Cabral believes that the easing of restrictions has a heavy hand into our own resurgence. “I think we expect a surge in the number of cases every time there is a loosening of restrictions kasi. That is really what has happened. Hindi natin siya masyadong naco-control yung resurgence ngayon. I think it might be we’re not testing enough, or tracing enough,” she says.

Reports of ICU beds and hospitals nearing, at, or beyond capacity have been going around. For example, in mid-June, DoH data showed that many of Cebu’s COVID facilities are in the danger zone. Three days ago, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced that Cebu has “reached their critical level already since last week. Kaya talagang binabantayanbinibigyan ng suporta,” she says. A doctor from St. Luke’s Medical Center told ANCX that “COVID is back with vengeance ha. Matagal na kami tahimik St. Luke’s but yesterday, 7 patients! We’re intubated at the emergency area alone. Be vigilant!”

Siguro people are not careful. Pagod na pagod na sila ehsa isolation, sa pagpa-practice ng social distancing, sa pagsuot ng mask. Asar na siguro yung mga taoKaya siguro hindi na sila masyadong attentive,” Esperanza muses. Ergo, one of the solutions is simply the inverse: “It’s really up to us. We need to practice what we’ve been told to practice—physical distancing, wearing our masks, not touching our face after we’ve touched stuff that are not contaminated, washing our hands,” she enumerates.

And as for the government? “The DoH has to scale up its efforts. From the very start, I have always said that I’m sure they’re trying their best, but they have to try some more. Up to now, it’s not good enough. I’ve told them that they need to scale up and speed up their efforts,” she explains. “Alam naman nila kung anong gagawin na eh. We’ve learned lessons from other countries, we’ve learned lessons din from our own experiences. It’s just a matter of scaling and speeding up.”